Feds Back Down from Armed Protesters in Nevada: Win for Freedom or Dangerous Precedent?
It is hard to predict what tiny moments can blossom into something that can have much larger consequences than ever imagined. Did Gavrilo Princip have any idea that after his successful assassination of Franz Ferdinand that two World Wars would follow in its wake? One wonders if thoughts such as these went through the heads of any of the Park Rangers facing an armed group of protesters in Nevada over the weekend or if they were simply worried about what would happen in that moment?
The stand-off was a result of a 21 year-old decision by Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to recognize the US Government’s claim of ownership on land that he insists belongs to the state of Nevada. After numerous court orders, Bundy not only ignored their request for grazing fees and orders to vacate the land, but in fact allowed his cattle to graze even further into contested-only-by-him territory. Finally, the Bureau of Land Management sent in officers to impound the cattle on the land in order to sell them off to pay Bundy’s more than $1 million in grazing fees.
Yet, when the BLM moved in to capture the cattle, they were met with dozens of protesters and armed members of a local militia. A video of police shooting Bundy’s adult son with a taser went viral on conservative media, and the stand-off became less about grazing fees and more about American freedom. Sunday, Bundy led a group of protesters—many of them armed, but not all—to a stand-off with BLM officers at their base camp. Militia members even took up “sniper positions” on a highway that passed over where the BLM officers and protesters met.
Eventually the BLM agreed to release the cattle and vacate their camp in order to deescalate a situation that could have easily ended with bloodshed. Had one of the militia members or BLM officers accidentally fired their weapon, there is no telling how far-reaching the consequences would have been. Still, this sets a dangerous precedent that well-armed Americans can simply violate the ruling of the courts with the threat of violence. This is a story we will be watching closely.
Image: YouTube screengrab of Cliven Bundy