The situation at the Bundy ranch in Nevada is beginning to turn dangerous. The elder rancher Cliven Bundy, who has been facing off with the Bureau of Land Management as the agency rounds up and seizes his cattle over a grazing rights dispute, has gained the support of armed militia members even as the BLM has swarmed his property with hundreds of federal agents in trucks and helicopters, and called for out-of-state backup.
All of this over an allegedly endangered desert tortoise.
On Wednesday, a heated confrontation between Bundy family members and armed BLM agents with a pack of attack dogs became briefly violent before it was broken up. Federal agents say a dog was kicked and they were pushed. Members of the Bundy family and a group of supporters say a pregnant woman was attacked by a dog, they were jostled and knocked to the ground, and Ammon Bundy, Cliven’s son, was tased. Video of the incident shows the strapping rancher pulling the taser leads out and, seemingly unaffected, continuing to argue with the feds, minutes after which the BLM agents retreated in their white SUVs to the cheers of protesters.
The BLM insists the protesters were blocking a BLM truck and threatening the civilian driver. The Bundy family says the confrontation really began when a group of federal agents surrounded some people videotaping a BLM helicopter running down baby cattle. Ammon Bundy has admitted that he did climb on a BLM truck because he thought it might be carrying the carcasses of cattle killed in the roundup.
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins said that supporters of Cliven Bundy “better have funeral plans.”
The comment made in a phone call was revealed by Darin Bushman, a Piute County, Utah, commissioner, after he spoke with Collins to discuss Utah ranchers and his fellow county commissioners who were incensed over the tactics used by the BLM in seizing Bundy’s cattle in southern Nevada.
On his Facebook page, Bushman wrote, “I was just told by commissioner Collins of Clark County NV that all of us folks from Utah are a bunch of ‘inbred bastards’ and if we are coming to Clark County NV to support Cliven Bundy we all ‘better have funeral plans.’ We should ‘turn our asses around and mind our own f-ing business.’ Now there’s some classy leadership for you.”
Once his comments became public, Collins said, “I’m trying to do everything I can to discourage anybody who tells me they’re coming here with loaded guns. I’m going to tell them not to come.”
Bushman also ripped the Clark County sheriff for being “too spineless to exercise his jurisdiction” by arresting BLM agents for trespassing and theft.
The BLM has surrounded the ranch with more than 200 armed agents and has brought in an unknown number of Rangers from out of state for reinforcements. Meanwhile, armed militia members have arrived from out of state to support the Bundys, and they say they are not afraid to shoot if need be.
So far, an estimated 350 head of cattle have been removed from the disputed land in the showdown that began with the federal government in 1993 declaring 600,000 acres that the Bundy family had ranched for a century protected acreage because of the allegedly endangered desert tortoise, a species that has notably survived in the area despite the presence of cattle and ranching activities.
To many people who believe in individual rights and liberty, Cliven Bundy has become a hero. To federal agents and the environmentalist groups who instigated the whole situation by getting the desert tortoise declared endangered and cutting off Bundy’s century-old grazing rights, Bundy is a criminal trespasser and thief who owes the government more than a million dollars in grazing fees.
Bundy, it should be noted, is the last rancher in Clark County. There used to be others, but they all sold their land or went out of business because of BLM interference.
At least some of the Rangers present at the BLM standoff are ashamed of what they’re doing, according to Cliven’s daughter, Stetsy Bundy Cox. According to the Washington Free Beacon:
“I asked him, ‘What are you doing? Do you know what you’re doing? You’re stealing an old man’s cattle, his livelihood. He’s a poor man that doesn’t have anything,’” she said. “And I said, ‘You’re pushing baby cows’—I watched a baby cow not want to move and a helicopter swoop down and honk at him till he had to move.”
Cox said the Ranger said, “No, no, we don’t want that.”
“But I saw it,” she said.
“‘Well, well,’ and he goes, ‘I don’t even want to be here. Do you think my grandfather’s proud of me? You think I like this? You think this is fun for me?’”
“Then what are you doing here?” Cox asked him.
“He said, ‘It’s my job.’”
Arizona state Rep. Kelly Townsend, whom CBS identifies as “Tea Party Republican,” was appalled upon watching video of Wednesday’s tasing. “It sounds dramatic,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, “but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point.”