An armed militia group sent out an alert in code after a helicopter landed near a mine at the center of a dispute with government agents.
Members of the Oath Keepers arrived last month at the Sugar Pine Mining Claim in southwestern Oregon after its owners asked for assistance in a dispute with the Bureau of Land Management.
The gold mining claim’s owners, George Backes and Rick Barclay, said the government is violating their rights by ordering them to file a plan of operations or remove their equipment.
The Oath Keepers issued a coded call to arms Thursday after rumors circulated on Facebook that federal agents planned to raid the mining claim or the militia camp after helicopters were spotted nearby.
The group – which claims to be made up of military and law enforcement personnel who vowed not to obey laws they believe to be unconstitutional – urged members to arm themselves and come immediately to the staging area.
A local Oath Keepers leader determined that BLM “troops” were not arriving and ordered his group to “stand down,” said Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel.
Joseph Rice, the Oath Keepers leader, said a single helicopter had landed multiple times without permission on a nearby mountainside and had nothing to do with the government or the mine, the sheriff said.
However, Daniel said, the incident illustrated the potential threat posed by the armed group gathered near the mining claim.
“You never know what could happen in an accident,” Daniel said.
A spokeswoman for the Oath Keepers confirmed there had been an “incident” but declined to elaborate.
“Our quick response teams responded,” the group said on its website.