Ballots Not Bullets Coalition Statement in Recognition of the Outstanding Service of Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward

Washington, DC—The Ballots Not Bullets Coalition, a group of organizations from across the country concerned by the increasing use of violence—and threats of violence—to affect public policy in the United States, recognizes Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward for his leadership and outstanding service during the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

“Sheriff Dave” as he’s known in Burns County, Oregon has worked diligently throughout the crisis to resolve matters without bloodshed. He met personally with Ammon Bundy and the ringleaders of the occupation and offered them a peaceful exit from the refuge, hoping they would take it.

He has also been an articulate spokesman for our democratic institutions. As the occupiers spun paranoid, anti-government theories to justify dispossessing the American people of their lands, Sheriff Ward consistently kept the county and nation focused on the right of Harney County residents to live free from armed oppression. The peace has been disturbed in the county for weeks because a select group of men decided to take up arms to redress their grievances. Schools have been closed. Roads have been shut down. And taxpayers are footing the bill for the many law enforcement officers and assets needed to protect the public.

Last week, in the wake of the arrest of the ringleaders of the occupation (which resulted in the death of resisting rancher Robert “LaVoy” Finicum), Sheriff Ward spoke with a heavy heart:

This has been tearing our community apart. It’s time for everyone in this illegal occupation to move on. It doesn’t have to be bloodshed in our community. If we have issues with the way things are going in our government, we have a responsibility as citizens to act on them in an appropriate manner. We don’t arm up and rebel. … This can’t happen anymore. This can’t happen in America. And it can’t happen in Harney County.

We are happy that Sheriff Ward remains on the scene, with four occupiers still remaining in the Malheur refuge. His leadership has been critical in keeping that situation from mushrooming into something far worse.

Thank you, Sheriff Ward, for reminding us what patriotism and service to country really looks like.


The Ballots Not Bullets Coalition is a group of organizations that are concerned by the increasing use of violence—and threats of violence—to affect public policy in the United States. The coalition believes that there is no legitimate role for political violence under our Constitution.

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