On Saturday, what began as a peaceful protest of the impending imprisonment of two Eastern Oregon ranchers transformed into... something else. Self-described militiamen affiliated with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy (his son Ammon is leading the charge) quietly slipped onto unoccupied federal wildlife sanctuary—taking over several buildings, and setting up shop for an occupation they're claiming will last for years.

The activity has upset everyday life in the town of Burns, the closest city to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge where the occupation is taking place. Schools are closed this week, and many residents of enormous, desolate Harney County are on edge. The number of armed men has been reported as roughly 20—less than the group has claimed, though there's a standing call for likeminded "patriots" from around the country to stream into Oregon.

"These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States," the Harney County Sheriff's Office said in a release on Sunday.

Here's a statement Ammon Bundy and other occupiers made on Saturday after they took over the federal buildings.

Here it is. Please know these men will speak to people civilly. Do not go up there guns blazing. Stay safe and smart. Please go to this link and sign. The injustice that is being done to this family is the real issue. Please sign! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-sentences-dwight-lincoln-hammond-jr-and-steven-dwight-hammond-both-harney-county-oregon
Posted by Sarah Dee Spurlock on Saturday, January 2, 2016

They spoke with reporters more Sunday, telling news outlets they were prepared to stay on at Malheur for "years," and planned to open up the federal lands to grazing, mining, and timber interests—activities they believe the federal Bureau of Land Management have illegally curbed. They've also repeatedly said they're willing to die for the cause. The lofty language has inspired lots of derision.

The occupiers offered reporters on scene a tour of the buildings they've taken over, including this look at their skimpy provisions (and bitchin' boom box) for what appears to be a standoff in the making.

There's no sign when that standoff could begin. So far, authorities' response to the takeover has been very, very reserved, though the federal government has formally shut down the wildlife refuge. The US Fish and Wildlife Service put up this statement on its homepage for the refuge:

The Fish and Wildlife Service is aware that an unknown number of armed individuals have broken into and occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge facility near Burns, Oregon. While the situation is ongoing, the main concern is employee safety and we can confirm that no federal staff were in the building at the time of the initial incident. We will continue to monitor the situation for additional developments

The armed "militiamen" say they've come to Harney County to defend Dwight and Steve Hammond, two ranchers convicted of setting fires on public land in 2012. Under federal law, the convictions carry a 5-year minimum mandatory sentence, but a judge in the case sentences the Hammonds to far less. They've now been ordered to turn themselves in to serve out the remainder of the punishment tomorrow. At least one has apparently already left for California to do just that, according to OPB reporter Amelia Templeton.

National media outlets are flocking to Burns to cover this developing situation, but both the Oregonian and OPB have numerous staffers on the ground and are putting together great coverage (examples here and here).