Armed supporters of lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy are reportedly setting up checkpoints requiring locals to prove their residency and engaging in other intimidating behavior, weeks after being lauded by conservative media for rallying to Bundy's cause.
Bundy has been at odds with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for decades over his refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle's use of public lands. While BLM possessed court orders allowing the confiscation of Bundy's cattle to settle more than $1 million in unpaid fees, Bundy threatened violence and repeatedly said he would "do whatever it takes" to resist BLM efforts to collect on his debt.
Bundy's stand against BLM was endlessly hyped by conservative media -- especially Fox's Sean Hannity -- and set off a series of events that nearly ended in bloodshed. After Bundy was brought into the national spotlight, armed militias rallied to his cause. On April 12, tensions reached a head as supporters -- some armed -- marched towards where BLM had impounded Bundy's cattle. Citing safety concerns, BLM suspended its operations.
The behavior of Bundy's supporters -- who according to Nevada journalist Jon Ralston were "whipped into a frenzy" by Hannity and others -- was frightening during the final confrontation with BLM. According to the Las Vegas Sun, children were interspersed with the armed group that marched towards BLM. (Widespread media attention was given to a claim by extremist Bundy supporter Richard Mack that supporters strategized to use women as human shields.)
The Sun also reported that as the group approached BLM, "militiamen took to high ground on the southbound bridge, pointing their guns into the wash, just in case a firefight broke out" and that, "Later, several of those at the scene would say the situation was so tense that any loud noise -- a car backfiring, say -- might have touched off a bloodbath. There's no question among those who saw it: The militia members at the scene would have used their guns on the government agents if a fight had broken out." (During the buildup of tensions Drudge Report had hyped the claim of a militiaman that he wasn't "afraid to shoot.")
A widely circulated picture from Reuters photographer Jim Urquhart showed a Bundy supporter taking up a sniper position against federal law enforcement. According to Reuters, one man on the southbound bridge pointed his rifle at BLM officers and said, "I've got a clear shot at four of them."
Despite numerous media reports of Bundy supporters pointing guns at federal law enforcement, they were still lauded by the same conservative media that had hyped Bundy into a modern-day right-wing folk hero.
After the showdown, the supporters were described by Fox personalities as "good, hardworking Americans," "law-abiding American citizens," and "patriotic Americans." Fox host Clayton Morris sanitized the interactions between Bundy supporters and law enforcement, claiming, "Suddenly people are there protesting peacefully, arguing against government intervention here ... and all of these police and folks roll in with guns and sniper rifles pointing at them."
Just as conservative media showed little interest in vetting Bundy -- whose cause imploded after he made shockingly racist statements about "the Negro" -- right-wing personalities had no interest in who actually composed Bundy's core support group.
A report from the Sun shows that the extremism of Bundy's armed supporters is apparent. Sun reporter Ed Komenda visited the Bundy supporter encampment and observed a "cache of weapons" including handguns, assault weapons, and a .50 caliber rifle; a type of anti-armor long-range rifle that has been used by terrorists, anti-government extremists, and Mexican drug cartels.
The worldview captured by Komenda is also disturbing. Komenda wrote that one man he interviewed was prepared to die in a gun battle with federal agents and described the following scenario:
Rapolla is prepared for a war with his government. His guns, he says, aren't just a show of force. Not knowing what to expect when he rolled into town, he says he was ready to die -- and, if he must, shoot a federal agent.
"Our pistols are shooting through my f****** window if there's a roadblock, then we're f****** getting out," he said. "We're gonna go to wherever the guns are blazing. We're not gonna walk to a f****** bloody (battlefield)."
Komenda reported that "[t]he threat of another Waco propelled most of the militiamen to Southern Nevada," and interviewed one man who said, "I know what happened at Waco. I know what happened at Ruby Ridge. I know what happened at all the other false flag murder events. I know that if we weren't here, they'd probably already be dead." Another armed man said he became aware of Bundy through the Drudge Report.
After the April 12 confrontation BLM left and said it "will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially." But armed militia members have stayed with Bundy. According to Komenda, Bundy is surrounded by armed bodyguards and other supporters train rifles on vehicles that approach the ranch.
The militiamen are now reportedly intimidating local residents of the Bunkerville, Nevada area. In an April 27 letter to Clark County Sheriff Douglas Gillespie, Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV) wrote, "Residents of Bunkerville and the surrounding area have expressed concern over the continual presence of multiple out-of-state, armed militia groups that have remained in the community since the BLM halted its actions to impound the cattle of Cliven Bundy earlier this month." According to Horsford the militia has caused "many of my constituents to fear for their safety."
Constituents have complained about militia checkpoints and members carrying weapons near schools and churches:
My constituents have expressed concern that members of these armed militia groups:
1. Have set up checkpoints where residents are required to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass;
2. Have established a persistent presence along federal highways and state and county roads; and
3. Have established an armed presence in or around community areas including local churches, school, and other community locations.
As Horsford argues, the residents of Bunkerville and its surrounding area are being forced to "live under the persistent watch of an armed militia." And for that, those residents can -- in part -- thank Fox News and other conservative media who recklessly promoted Bundy's cause.