(RNS) Franklin Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and an increasingly outspoken figure among social conservatives, played a role in negotiations with the last four rightwing protesters at federal wildlife refuge in Oregon that finally ended their holdout.
“Thanking God that the #Oregonstandoff is over and all are safe,” Graham wrote on his Facebook page late Thursday (Feb. 11).
In a phone call to the holdouts before he arrived on the scene, Graham had told the group he was “proud of you and love you and look forward to giving you guys a big hug.”
The four men surrendered peacefully Thursday (Feb. 11) to end the 41-day takeover, but not before one protester balked at the last moment and threatened to shoot himself in a rambling, hour-long discussion that was livestreamed online.
David Fry, 27, speaking by cellphone on an open line broadcast on YouTube, said he was “feeling suicidal” only moments after his three companions peacefully surrendered to the FBI and a group of negotiators led by evangelist Franklin Graham.
“I am actually pointing a gun at my head. I am tired of living here,” Fry said at one point. “You guys took away everything from me, for doing nothing wrong.”
The standoff began as a protest by ranchers against federal land-use policies, but Fry complained of his taxes paying for abortions and his marijuana being taken away.
Fry eventually changed his mind and also surrendered, bringing the number of occupiers arrested to 16, including leader Ammon Bundy.
One man, their spokesman Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, was killed by state police on Jan. 26 when he tried to run a roadblock outside the preserve and apparently reached for a gun.
Writing on his Facebook page, Graham said “This is a complicated controversy with the government that has roots going back many years. Praying that now their grievances will be heard and addressed through the right channels.”
(David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS)