Dispute between rancher Cliven Bundy and authorities escalating with the presence of militia groups
TWO decades after a bloody standoff between armed militiamen and government forces in Texas made headlines around the globe, a new confrontation is looming that threatens to become a “second Waco”.
“Patriot” citizen militia groups from all over the US — loose organisations deeply mistrustful of central government, many of them dedicated to using weapons to defend their perceived rights to freedom — are warning that the clash in dusty Nevada could become a landmark “liberty” flashpoint.
It began with a dispute over cows grazing on public lands north of Las Vegas and has escalated into a dramatic standoff between federal officials and a farming family — bolstered by militia support.
The man at the centre of it is farmer Cliven Bundy, who has allowed his cows to graze on public lands for 20 years, despite administrative and court orders to stop, according to the Washington Post.
Fed up with his intransigence, the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM)began removing the 900 cattle from the public land in Clark County last Friday.
The operation involved the temporary closure of some public lands — an area around 3,000 square kilometres, or half the size of the state of Delaware.
Tense situation ... with protesters already confrotning officials, there are fears the dispute could escalate with the arrival of militias. Source: Supplied
Bundy doesn’t recognise federal authority on land he insists belongs to the state of Nevada.
“These people are thieves,” Bundy told the Associated Press. “I haven’t even started fighting yet. You think I’m going to lay down and just give up. I’m going to fight for the Constitution and state sovereignty.”
Asked what actions he planned to take, Bundy replied, “Why don’t you wait and see. As I told the BLM and county sheriff, ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.”’
On Wednesday the confrontation led to a scuffle between the authorities and members of the Bundy family. A ranger from the BLM shot one of Bundy’s sons, Ammon, with a stun gun.
Stand-off ... authorities confront protesters with stun guns. Source: Supplied
The issue is seen by some as the latest battle over state and federal land rights in a state with deep roots in such disputes.
“It’s not about my cows, I can tell you that much. It’s about freedom and liberty and the constitution and our state sovereignty,” Cliven Bundy told a Moapa Valley Town Board meeting last Friday.
Republican senator Dean Heller said law-abiding Nevadans shouldn’t be penalised by an “overreaching” agency, while the state’s Republican Governor Brian Sandoval described “an atmosphere of intimidation” resulting from the roundup.
Sandoval said he was most offended that armed federal officials had tried to corral people protesting the roundup into a fenced-in “First Amendment area” south of the resort city of Mesquite.
The site “tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the US Constitution” and should be dismantled, Sandoval said.
Load up on guns ... a still from one of the YouTube videos in support of Cliven Bundy. Source: YouTube
The stand-off has since escalated, with citizen militia groups offering their support for the Bundy family.
Three armed militia members from interstate are already at the ranch, with more threatening to come.
Ryan Payne and Jim Lardy, members of the West Mountain Rangers from Montana, told the online site Review Journal that potentially hundreds of armed citizens were mobilising.
“We need to be the barrier between the oppressed and the tyrants,” Payne said. “Expect to see a band of soldiers.”
“We’re not anti-government,” Lardy said. “We’re anti-corrupt government.”
Review Journal also spoke to Stephen Dean from the People’s United Mobile Armed Services, who said he joined the cause to help prevent another Ruby Ridge or Waco, referring to deadly confrontations involving federal agents in Idaho in 1992 and in Texas in 1993.
“I’m here to see it does happen differently,” he said.
More than 80 people died in the Waco siege, as fire engulfed a compound where armed members of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian sect were fighting off federal agents.
Three people were killed in the Ruby Ridge incident the previous year.
Foreboding message ... a still from one of the videos uploaded to YouTube in support of Cliven Bundy. Source: YouTube
A video uploaded to YouTube in support of Bundy shows images of guns, while a man states “We’re going to go in there with force and we’re going to bail these people out ... Please understand that this is a challenging situation and it’s not for the faint of heart.”
Officials said Bundy has racked up more than $1.1 million in unpaid grazing fees over the years while disregarding several court orders to remove his animals.
Bundy estimates the unpaid fees total about $300,000. He argues that his Mormon family’s 19th century ranch predates the creation of the Bureau of Land Management in 1946.
Since the cattle roundup began on Saturday, there has been one arrest.
Bundy’s son, Dave, 37, was taken into custody on Sunday as he watched the roundup. He was released on Monday with bruises on his face and a citation accusing him of refusing to disperse and resisting arrest. A court date has not been set.
His mother Carol alleged that her son was roughed up by BLM police.
Meanwhile, federal officials say 277 cows have been collected. State veterinarian and brand identification officials will determine what becomes of the impounded cattle.
Wrapped in the flag ... a Bundy support video identifies the “Three percenters”, a group who adhere to the doctrine: ‘When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty’. Source: YouTub
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