LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Nevada congressman is calling on elected officials in the state to rid a town in his district of militia members who have rallied around rancher Cliven Bundy in his battle with federal land managers.
Rep. Steven Horsford, in an address to the Clark County Democratic Convention in Las Vegas on Saturday, said he’s making the request after hearing more complaints from constituents about the presence of Bundy supporters near Bunkerville, 75 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
In encampments around the Bundy ranch, self-described militia members from around the country continue to camp with handguns on their hips and heavier weaponry within reach in a show of support for Bundy.
Bundy, a states’ rights advocate who refuses to acknowledge the authority of the federal government, owes more than $1 million in fees and penalties for letting his cattle use government land over the past 20 years. Last month, the Bureau of Land Management stopped trying to round up his cattle after a showdown with hundreds of Bundy supporters, some of them armed.
Horsford, who attended a public event in nearby Mesquite earlier Saturday, said he was approached by residents there wanting to know about his plans to get militia members out of the area.
He said a fifth-grade girl told him that Bundy has a “sense of entitlement” and should pay grazing fees like other ranchers who use public land in the West. A man told him that Bundy is a “welfare rancher” living off taxpayer subsidies, Horsford said.
“And that is why I am calling on (Gov.) Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller, the (Clark County) sheriff (Doug Gillespie) and any other elected official in Nevada to do their part to get rid of these armed separatists,” Horsford said to loud cheers from about 200 delegates.
Sandoval and Heller are Republicans, while Gillespie holds a nonpartisan position.
Sandoval spokesman Mac Bybee referred The Associated Press on Sunday to an interview on the “Nevada Newsmakers” television show taped Friday in which the governor acknowledged people have a right to feel safe in their homes.
Asked if Gillespie plans to move militia groups from the Bunkerville area, Sandoval replied, “No, and even if he had said that, I wouldn’t share that with you, because certainly that’s a conversation between the two of us.”
“I just know that he is monitoring the situation and he’s very aware of what’s going on out there,” the governor added, according to KRNV-TV.
Heller, who has labeled Bundy’s supporters as “patriots,” and Gillespie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Horsford also has called for federal authorities and Gillespie to investigate the gun-toting force that Horsford said was frightening for residents.
Openly carrying a pistol or rifle is legal in Nevada, and permit holders can carry concealed weapons.
“Meet The Militia Rushing To Cliven Bundy’s Defense”
James Yeager is calling from Cliven Bundy’s front yard, where he’s one of several (he won’t say how many) providing 24-hour security to the Bundy family. He and his friend packed up “a full medical kit and a camera” and drove 26 ½ hours from their home in Camden, Tennessee last week to document what he calls “a tremendous overreach of federal power.” He’s been posting daily videos to his YouTube site.
When asked if he also packed weapons, Yeager said, “of course. I’m always armed. This is not any different than any other day for me.”
James Yeager with rancher Cliven Bundy.
CREDIT: photo provided by James Yeager.
Yeager is one of hundreds of supporters who journeyed to Bunkerville, Nevada in support of the rancher’s standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management. Though federal agents released Bundy’s cattle over a week ago, many have remained on the ranch to protest and protect the rancher’s family. They’ve hailed Bundy — who owes the federal government over $1 million in unpaid grazing fees — as an “American hero.” The Mormon father of 14 has even inspired futuristic fan fiction from his most ardent admirers: “Yes, it’s been a great half-century for America, and we owe much of our good fortune to the bravery of Cliven Bundy.”
They call themselves militia members, oath keepers, protesters and patriots. Senator Harry Reid calls them “domestic terrorists.”
So which is it? In the background of the Bundy debate over federal land is a battle over image: protesters who want to paint themselves as American citizens defending the Constitution against a tyrannical government, versus groups worried about the extremist anti-government militia members among them, who may be more and more willing to take up arms in the fight for “freedom.”
Armed agents from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seized Bundy’s cattle in early April, a move that brought protesters (and their guns) from all over the country to the ranch, demanding that his cows be released. The situation intensified when a video of BLM agents tasing Bundy’s son went viral. As more and more of Bundy’s armed defenders streamed into Bunkerville, the BLM released the cattle and said they were rethinking how to move forward.
The Southern Poverty Law Center released a report in 2009 on the resurgence of right-wing militia groups, like some of those that rushed to Bundy’s support. “This is the most significant growth we’ve seen in 10 to 12 years,” one law enforcement official told the Center. “All it’s lacking is a spark.”
Was the standoff in Bunkerville that spark the militias needed? Patriot groups are now claiming victory in their fight against the federal government. It’s unclear what that means for Bundy’s $1 million in unpaid fees, or for future dissenters that decide to flout federal law with a bevy of armed backers.
“The militia movement is back, it is here in force and they seem to be roving the country looking for opportunities like this to make themselves known,” said Ryan Lenz of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), who traveled to Bunkerville to cover the Bundy standoff. “As more people with anti-government views streamed into the area, the issue became more about federal tyranny.” Lenz said tension mounted until “it was literally just one wrong step away from going south.”
The showdown in the Southwest drew supporters from many different camps, not just militia groups or the far-right: Western ranchers angry over federally owned land (Bundy’s not the first to spar with the BLM over this issue). Free speech advocates upset by the “first amendment zones” roped off for protesters. Avid fans of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones who answered his call to “stand up against tyranny” by “standing with Bundy.” Far-right (and fully armed) militia members looking for a standoff with federal law enforcement. And state legislators from across the West who saw an opportunity to drum up support among Bundy’s biggest fans.
“For me, it really had not a lot to do with Bundy or the cattle. My interest in it was really the first amendment zone and that something like that could even be set up here in America,” said Robert Richardson, owner of Off Grid Survival. Richardson, who lives in Nevada, traveled to Bunkerville to cover the protest for his blog. “It’s not a left-right issue. It’s something that almost everybody should be pretty enraged about.”
Professor Jack Kay of Eastern Michigan University has studied militias and the “rhetoric of hate” for over 30 years. He said though many at the protest weren’t extremists, the far-right fringe could radicalize a bigger proportion of protesters. “There were far more people there than members of the militia — there were the cowboys, the neighbors, the women and children,” he said. “[But] these radical militia see this as an opportunity for confrontation, an opportunity to recruit, [and] an opportunity to get a lot of media attention. I see over the next few years for the number of radical militias to increase their enrollment.”
Many in Bundy’s brigade reject the notion that they’re anti-government. “If you set up a Facebook page, called yourself the “Greater Metro Citizens Militia”, and took a picture of yourself in Camo, Within six months, The SPLC will list you as an ‘anti-government patriot group,’” wrote Michael Lackomar of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia, in an email to ThinkProgress. Lackomar coordinated communication between different militias during the Bundy Ranch protest from his home in Michigan. “It’s unfair to call us ‘Anti Government’…We are against over-reaching, unconstitutional government.”
Lackomar says his militia’s main focus is survival. “Our mission is to prepare ourselves and our families to help out at home and in our neighborhoods in times of emergency,” he said in an email. They’ve provided protection for other protests, including one over a Michigan teen’s arrest for carrying a rifle and one held by Qur’an-burning pastor Terry Jones.
Kay sees militia members who actually intend to use violence as a “very, very small minority,” he says. “Most of them are just weekend warriors who go out in the woods and do some paramilitary activity and some camouflage painting.”
Bundy’s supporters are also adamant that they love America — they just don’t agree with (or in many cases, even recognize as legitimate) its government or the laws it passes.
Writings by many militias discuss the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, or any of the Founding Fathers’ words with an almost religious reverence. At a recent “Patriot Party” hosted on the Bundy ranch, Bundy greeted his fans with a copy of the Constitution tucked in the breast pocket of his button-up. A George Washington impersonator, clad in a full white wig and navy coat with tails, showed up to eat barbecue beside Bundy and his wife.
“I am the furthest thing from an insurrectionist,” said Yeager from Bundy’s yard. Yeager owns a gun store and training center called Tactical Response which, as it says on his Facebook page, “trains good people to kill bad people.”
“I love this country. Love it. Top to bottom. When I say the pledge of allegiance, I mean it. It’s funny that the word patriot has been turned into this negative thing.”
Yeager mentions he made the cover of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s quarterly intelligence report for being an anti-government threat, but says they’re not “a credible source.”
He drew the SPLC’s attention last year for calling on fellow “patriots” to rise up against gun control. “If that happens, it’s going to spark a civil war, and I’ll be glad to fire the first shot. I need all you patriots to start thinking about what you’re going to do,” he said in a video posted on his personal YouTube page. “If this goes one inch further, I’m going to start killing people.”
He later apologized, saying he did not “advocate the overthrowing of the United States government, nor do I condone any violent actions towards any elected officials.”
Like many of Bundy’s fans, Yeager objects to being labeled as conservative or far-right. “I believe there is a slow train to the demise of this country and there’s a fast train to the demise of this country,” he said. “The slow train is the Republicans and the fast train is the Democrats. But they’re both wrong.”
As Christian Kerodin of the III Percent Patriots put it, “No existing political party represents genuine Liberty today.”
Harry Reid’s moniker of “domestic terrorist,” however, is a title many have ironically embraced. Photos of the “Patriot Party” showed many wearing “Hello my name is…” stickers with the line scribbled on. The group responded with cheers when Bundy asked, “Are you guys domestic terrorists?”
“Because my views are not popular with this administration, I had a US Senator, label me as a Dangerous radical and domestic terrorist,” Lackomar wrote to ThinkProgress. “If you don’t agree with him, like many oppressors of history, you need to be locked up, or… worse yet… Killed. Now, Has Harry said I need to die? No. But when you label people as criminal…then it’s not a real stretch.”
Though federal BLM agents released the cattle, many still fear a raid on the Bundy family’s home. “We are concerned that the domestic enemies of the Constitution that infest the federal government might try to take advantage of folks going home, and attempt to make a move on the Bundy family,” wrote Stuart Rhodes, founder of patriot group the Oath Keepers. The organization, made up of military and law enforcement members that pledge allegiance to the Constitution but not to the government, has been a leader among Bundy supporters. The Oath Keepers say they’re sending another team of people to the ranch later this week.
A meme showing a man in sniper position was shared among some Bundy supporters on Facebook.
Kay monitored a 24-hour public phone line manned by Bundy’s militia backers and heard many express suspicions that the Obama administration had drones following protesters as they moved across the country. Others have repeated rumors that the BLM had paid mercenaries on the ground in Nevada. Fear over the National Security Agency spying on their communications was also frequently referenced.
Militia experts say furor over issues like gun control, NSA surveillance and the IRS’ treatment of Tea Party PACs has spurred more interest in militias and patriot groups.
Publicity over the Bundy Ranch may spark even more enthusiasm. Kerodin of the III Percent Patriots, which gets its name from the claim that three percent of Americans fought in the American Revolution, said interest had “dramatically increased” since the Bundy Ranch gained national attention. “The number of people finding us through Google keyword searches is stunning,” he said in an email.
The group’s Colorado chapter used the events to recruit new members. “I think it is time for all of you to Join the Militia!” they wrote in a Facebook post. “Look what is happening at The Bundy Ranch in NV. That could happen here next!” On April 15, the Arizona State Militia wrote they were flooded with new applications, receiving over 100 in 72 hours.
“It is absolutely a recruitment strategy,” said Kay. “Now that the government stood down on this one i think they’re going to claim this as a huge victory. It really is to me the perfect storm for the militia to increase their attention and increase their recruitment and get ready for the next standoff.”
Lenz agrees. “We’re in a moment of critical mass. We have so many anti-government groups who believe the federal government is working against them, who believe Obama is secretly a Muslim, a communist, or not even an American,” he said. “There are people who will stand up to the federal government and risk their lives to do so.”
Bundy’s supporters say they would not have pulled the trigger unless fired upon. Many assert they won the battle with protest and publicity, and not through force. But there’s no question that as tension rose, perceived threats on either heavily-armed side could have easily ended in bloodshed.
“Violence is only acceptable in self-defense and in defense of innocent people from tyranny,” Kerodin said. “There will be violent clashes in our future between those who mean to be Masters, and those who refuse to be ruled.”
As Yeager sees it, “if the BLM would have fired a shot, that would have been the second shot heard round the world.”
Speaking at a Las Vegas Review-Journal event, Harry Reid was clear: “They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists. I repeat: what happened there was domestic terrorism.”
As Harry Reid stated last week – “This isn’t over”. It appears now that those of you who went there, those of us who blog about it and support Cliven Bundy, those of us against Government Overreach – well, the fear mongering about all of us being labeled as “terrorists” was not “fear mongering”, it was fact.
You’re all terrorists now.
Harry Reid Labels Supporters of Rancher Cliven Bundy ‘Domestic Terrorists’, Reveals Federal Task Force Being Assembled
Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) claimed on Thursday that armed supporters of rancher Cliven Bundy are “domestic terrorists” and reckless individuals who put their families in danger.
Speaking at a Las Vegas Review-Journal event, Reid was clear: “They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists. I repeat: what happened there was domestic terrorism.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. talks about the gender pay gap as the Senate begins debate on wage equity, Tuesday, April 8, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The rhetoric certainly will do nothing to ease already-high tensions after the Bureau of Land Management prematurely shut down its operation to round up Bundy’s “trespass cattle” on Saturday. The federal agency cited fears of public safety after having run-ins with armed militia members who traveled to Bunkerville, Nev., to support the rancher.
Bundy reportedly owes the federal government roughly $1 million in grazing fees, an amount he accumulated after he “fired” the Bureau of Land Management in 1993 over its decision to turn public land into a protective habitat for the state’s desert tortoise.
There are two court orders that permit BLM to execute a roundup of 500 to 900 of Bundy’s “trespass cattle,” Reid reportedly said.
Reid, who recently said the situation is “not over,” revealed on Thursday there is a federal task force being assembled to handle to the tense situation. Click here to view the original image of 620x362px. Cliven Bundy, right, sits in the back of a vehicle near Bunkerville, Nev., Friday, April 11, 2014. The area has become the center of a protest against the Bureau of Land Management’s roundup of cattle owned by Bundy. Bundy claims ancestral rights to graze his cattle on lands his Mormon family settled in the 19th century. (AP Photo/Las Vegas Review-Journal, John Locher)
“Clive Bundy does not recognize the United States,” Reid said. “The United States, he says, is a foreign government. He doesn’t pay his taxes. He doesn’t pay his fees. And he doesn’t follow the law. He continues to thumb his nose at authority.”
“It is an issue we cannot let go, just walk away from,” he added.
I just found this folks, just giving the heads up!
Oath Keepers Founder Calling All Members to Bunkerville
Stewart Rhodes: “Oath Keepers, this is your time…”
Oath Keepers founder, Stewart Rhodes, contacted me late Tuesday evening with a message for ALL Oath Keepers. Stewart, along with a contingent of patriots from as far away as New Hampshire, are still standing vigil over the Bundy family ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. Scores of patriots have already made the trip, including legislators from neighboring western states, but more are needed to relieve those already in place. I have linked to the audio update below.
A note here…. I found this lurking around the Internet, trying to put another face on the Bundy situation.
I personally don’t care about the cows. I care about the fact that the US Government has agencies and bureaucracies that are over reaching, over arming themselves and setting rules that shouldn’t be set in the first place. Whether Bundy or the Government is wrong here isn’t the point – the point is the government has been duking it out with this rancher now for years and years.
Even in a Home Owners Association with HOA rules that don’t get enforced “in a reasonable period of time” in all fifty states (fifty-seven if you’re Obama of course) can NOT be enforced.
Basically a reasonable period of time might be a year or two, not decades. The situation is untenable as far as I am personally concerned. The government is wrong (in my opinion) regardless of the background of this case. They need to stand down and get out of this fight, and in fact, the RIGHT things to do would be to disarm agencies that shouldn’t be armed. The Department of Education needs guns and ammo WHY again? The BLM? The EPA? Come on people. This isn’t about Bundy and some “illegal activities” – this is like gun control. It’s not about the guns, it’s about the CONTROL the government can hold over each and every individual in America.
George Frey/Getty Images
Glenn Beck is warning conservatives not to get too caught up in the controversy over Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for more than 15 years. (Read more about the case here.) Yes, the federal government controls too much land out west — and yes, federal rangers went too far with their heavy-handed tactics — but Beck cautions that extremists are using this incident as an excuse to fan the flames of violence.
“We did some research online with PsyID today,” Beck said on his show, “and found that there’s about 10 or 15 percent of the people who are talking about this online that are truly frightening.”
There are many “decent, small-government proponents from groups like the Tea Party” supporting Bundy, Beck continued, and they should be aware this controversy has drawn “violent, anti-government groups” who constitute “the right’s version of Occupy Wall Street.”
Tucker Carlson (my boss at the Daily Caller) made a related point on Fox News’ Special Report Monday night:
I have a lot of sympathy for the Bundys. I think they were completely mistreated by the federal government. But I still think it’s important to point out that this land does not belong to them and that’s not a minor distinction, it’s the essence of private property.
A heated land dispute between the federal government and a Nevada cattle rancher subsided over the weekend, but longtime lawmaker and former presidential hopeful Ron Paul says tensions might soon worsen once again.
An armed standoff between Cliven Bundy and the United States Bureau of Land Management ended on Saturday with the federal agency agreeing to release around 400 head of cattle it had seized from the Clark County, Nevada rancher. The bureau said Bundy owed roughly $1 million to the government because for the last two decades he failed to pay a fee for letting his cattle graze on federal land, but the rancher insisted that he owed the agency nothing. Supporters soon took up arms and flocked to the Bunch ranch to stand by in support as feds began to seize nearly 1,000 head of cattle, but over the weekend the BLM aborted their attempt to confiscate the animals in order avoid any violent showdown that might have emerged.
People mill around the outside of rancher Cliven Bundy ranch house (George Frey / Getty Images / AFP Photo)
Paul — the former Republican congressman for Texas and a three-time contender for the office of US president — said on Monday that things aren’t necessarily over on the Bundy ranch, even though the feds have for now relinquished their war with the rancher.
“They may come back with a lot more force like they did at Waco with the Davidians,” Paul told Fox News host Neil Cavuto on Friday, adding that he wished for a non-violent resolution.
Only days earlier, the rancher’s wife told the Huffington Post that the mobilization of heavily armed federal agents around her land was all too similar to the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidians’ Waco, Texas compound that ended with the deaths of 87 civilians.
“If you saw the artillery and their presence — the intimidation they are trying to put on us — it could turn into that,” Carol Bundy said she feared.
Speaking to Paul, Cavuto claimed that the potential for violence to erupt at the Bundy ranch on par with what occurred 20 years ago in Texas was on a “very slight trigger,” to which the former congressman responded, “That’s the great fear….especially if the financial crisis gets much worse which I anticipate.”
According to Paul, the entire incident in Clark County could have emerged differently if the government reconsidered the way it claimed land rights. Bundy said that the disputed property had been in his family for nearly 150 years, but the BLM insisted that his animals were trespassing on federal land since he stopped paying the government a grazing fee back in the early 1990s.
“I don’t believe I owe one penny to the United States government,” Bundy told Nevada’s Desert News last week. “I don’t have a contract with the United States government.”
On Friday, Paul told Cavuto that the Bundy family “had virtual ownership of that land because they had been using it,” yet the law is “not clean enough.”
“I think land should be in the states and I think the states should sell it to the people,” he continued, adding that “it’s worked out quite well in big states.”
“You need the government out of it and I think that’s the important point, if you don’t look at that you can expect more of these problems, especially when our economy gets into more trouble,” the former congressman said.
In the meantime, tensions have lessened to a degree in Clark County, where hundreds of seized cattle were handed back to the Bundy family on Saturday, as RT reported earlier. Nevertheless, BLM spokesman Craig Leff told the AP that his agency will work to resolve the matter “administratively and judicially.” Neither the BLM nor the US Department of Justice responded on Monday to requests for comment made by the newswire, but Cliven Bundy himself said he was going to have to inspect his returned cattle to assess their post-confiscation condition.
“It’s going to take a lot to revive the calves that were nearly dead when they were returned to the Bundy Ranch because they had been separated from their mothers during the roundup, and a few most likely won’t make it,” Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) told the AP. “It’s time for Nevada to stand up to the federal government and demand the return of the BLM lands to the people of Nevada.”
For his part, Bundy said at a news conference on Monday that “Every sheriff across the United States of America, take away the guns from the United States bureaucrats,” according to the AP.
“Understand it is because of each and every one of you standing here and each and every one of our Americans watching us and protecting us with our firearms why this did not turn into Waco massacre or a Ruby Ridge,” added Fiore.