Ashley Presley, a 15-year-old student in Burns, Oregon, spoke out against the chaos and uncertainty raised by armed anti-government militants occupying a nearby federal wildlife refuge.
"Being here with all this — honestly has scared me, and it shouldn't. I shouldn't have to be scared in my own hometown," Presley declared while fighting back tears. "I know all of my friends have been scared and come to me, to know what to do. I have to be the one to tell them it will be okay."
"None of us in Harney County should have to be scared in our own hometown," she concluded to a standing ovation.
After a small gang of militants led by Nevadan Ammon Bundy – a group many are calling domestic terrorists – took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge more than a week ago, life in the nearby small-town of Burns hasn't been pleasant or normal.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward said that anti-government protesters harassed and intimidated wildlife refuge employees living in the town. Another armed gang of militants arrived at the refuge with an intent to "de-escalate" the situation. Schools closed for a week due to safety concerns.
"We don't need people wandering around wondering what's going to happen to them," Sheriff Ward told the crowd. "We can't get things back to normal until we unite as a community and ask these folks to go home so we can start working together.
The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt.