“We provide armed response,” according to a Montana militia member named Jim Lordy. Lordy traveled to Nevada in order to support a local rancher for believes that he should not have to follow federal court orders. When he arrived there, he told a local reporter that “we need guns to protect ourselves from the tyrannical government.”
Lordy belongs to a militia group called Operation Mutual Aid, which provides “defense of public and private property, lives, and liberty to exercise God-given rights, seen plainly in the laws of Nature, and codified in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, at the request of such parties in need of such defense,” according to a website associated with the group. Although only three militia members had arrived at the Nevada ranch by late Wednesday, when the latest reports came out, other militia groups reportedly “inundated the rancher's household with calls and pledges to muster at the site.”
The Oath Keepers, a right-wing law enforcement organization that warns about the government “disarming the American people” and “blockading American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps,” also announced that it will send people to support the defiant rancher.
This conflict arises out of rancher Cliven Bundy’s many years of illegally grazing his cattle on federal lands. In 1998, a federal court ordered Bundy to cease grazing his livestock on an area of federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment, and required him to pay the federal government $200 per day per head of cattle remaining on federal lands. Around the time it issued this order, the court also commented that “[t]he government has shown commendable restraint in allowing this trespass to continue for so long without impounding Bundy’s livestock.” Fifteen years later, Bundy continued to defy this court order.
Last October, the federal government returned to court and obtained a new order, providing that “Bundy shall remove his livestock from the former Bunkerville Allotment within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.” A third federal court order issued the same year explains that Bundy did not simply refuse to stop trespassing on federal lands — he actually expanded the range of his trespassing. According to the third order, “Bundy’s cattle have moved beyond the boundaries of the Bunkerville Allotment and are now trespassing on a broad swath of additional federal land (the “New Trespass Lands”), including public lands within the Gold Butte area that are administered by the BLM, and National Park System land within the Overton Arm and Gold Butte areas of the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.” The third order also authorizes the federal government to “impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass.”
On Saturday of last week, the government hired wranglers to round up Bundy’s livestock. As of Wednesday, they’d impounded a total of 352 cattle. That’s when a tense standoff broke out between a group of Bundy’s supporters and federal rangers armed with stun guns and police dogs. In one video, a ranger tackles Bundy’s sister away from a moving vehicle (she later admitted that she was blocking the path of government trucks shortly before this incident). Another video shows rangers using a stun gun on a protester immediately after he kicks a police dog.
Bundy, for his part, claims that “our Constitution didn’t provide for anything like the federal government owning this land.” He’s wrong. The Constitution provides that “the Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States.”
Congratulations both oath keepers and Cliven Bundy, you are today's asshats of the day.