Nearly two weeks after a tense standoff between armed BLM agents and a 1,000-strong coalition (of armed militia-men, cowboys on horseback, states’ rights advocates and gun rights activists) over the BLM’s roundup of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle from federal rangeland, armed militia campers are still guarding Bundy’s ranch near the town of Bunkerville, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
67-year-old Bundy says he doesn’t recognize federal authority on the land his family settled and has used since the late 1870s, when Bunkerville was founded. His dispute with the BLM dates to 1993, when the government designated the Gold Butte area as protected habitat for the endangered desert tortoise and cut Bundy’s allotment of cows. Bundy quit paying grazing fees (the current fee is $1.35 per cow per month). The BLM canceled his grazing permit and ordered him to remove his cattle. Federal judges upheld the agency action.
In what Bundy advocates call the Battle of Bunkerville on April 12, 2014, the federal government eventually backed off, citing safety concerns. BLM agents were faced with military-style AR-15 and AK-47 weapons trained on them from a picket line of citizen soldiers on an Interstate 15 overpass, with dozens of women and children in the possible crossfire. BLM police released the confiscated 380 cattle, gave up the weeklong roundup, and lifted the closure of Bundy’s vast range half the size of the state of Delaware. The agency said it would resolve the matter “administratively and judicially.”
On April 12, 2014, Eric Parker from central Idaho stood watch on a bridge with his weapon as protesters gather by the BLM’s base camp, where cattle seized from rancher Cliven Bundy were being held, near Bunkerville.
Left unresolved is the federal government’s claim that Bundy owes more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for letting some 900 cows “trespass” for 20 years on federal rangeland.
According to his son Ammon, Cliven Bundy has since received several certified letters from the BLM, but hasn’t opened them. BLM spokesman Mitch Snow said the letters offer Bundy a chance to keep his cattle if he pays the $1.1 million in trespass fees, plus “reasonable expenses of the impoundment.” Agency officials have said the contract for the roundup was $900,000.
Jonathan Allen writes for Reuters, April 17, 2014, that the federal government’s decision to withdraw in the face of armed resistance has alarmed some who worry that it has set a dangerous precedent and emboldened militia groups.
Ryan Lenz, a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center that is concerned only with “right wing” terrorism and racism but not the terrorism/racism of the left or of Muslims, fumes, “Do laws no longer apply when the radical right no longer agrees?”
Militia experts say that armed Americans using the threat of a gunfight to force federal officers to back down is virtually unparalleled in the modern era.
Alex Jones, whose Infowars website had helped popularize Bundy’s dispute, called it a watershed moment: “Americans showed up with guns and said, ‘No, you’re not,’ before confronting the armed BLM agents. And they said, ‘Shoot us.’ And they did not. That’s epic. And it’s going to happen more.”
The 5,000-strong Oklahoma Milita has pledged their support to Bundy and vows to take up arms against the BLM if needed.
Energized by their success, Bundy’s supporters are already talking about where else they can exercise armed defiance. They are searching for other Bundys, such as Tommy Henderson, a rancher on the Texas-Oklahoma border who is fighting BLM attempts to seize some of his land.
As for Bundy — a Mormon, father of 14, and a registered Republican — he’s not just energized but displays every sign of hubris.
He’d taken to the stage fashioned from a flatbed trailer to tell reporters he wants sheriffs around the country to seize weapons from federal bureaucrats. Bundy’s given interviews and daily press conferences on matters ranging far from his dispute with the BLM, including one on April 19 in which he called black Americans “negroes” and wondered aloud whether blacks on welfare would be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”
Bundy’s rants already have alienated whatever supporters he had in Congress:
- Nevada’s Republican senator Dean Heller had spoken out in defense of Bundy and called for a Congressional hearing on the BLM’s roundup. But now, his spokesman Chandler Smith said that the senator “completely disagrees with Mr. Bundy’s appalling and racist statements, and condemns them in the most strenuous way.”
- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul released a statement today, saying Bundy’s “remarks on race are offensive and I wholeheartedly disagree with him.”
- Nevada state Assemblywoman Michele Fiore said, “I strongly disagree with Cliven Bundy’s comments about slavery.”
The BLM’s backing down is only a temporary tactical maneuver. As Martin Armstrong of Armstrong Economics puts it, “The likelihood of the Feds ever backing down is highly unlikely, The Federal Government is severely disconnected from the people and views anyone who stands up to them as a criminal and domestic terrorist.”
Indeed, two days ago on April 22 on KSNV-TV, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) already called the militiamen who have converged in Bunkerville “domestic violent terrorist-wannabes.”
Reid then ominously predicted that “something is going to happen” that will stop Bundy from grazing his cattle on allegedly federal land:
“It’s obvious that you can’t just walk away from this. And we can speculate all we want to speculate to what’s going to happen next. But I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow that something is going to happen, but something will happen.”
Armstrong reminds us that “Obama’s head of the Justice Department, Eric Holder now Attorney General, called the shots on WACO back then. He got away with it before – why not again?”
The Battle of Bunkerville may merely be a dress rehearsal for what lies ahead – a rising confrontation between the government and the American people.
H/t FOTM’s Wild Bill Alaska, swampygirl and CSM