Ryan and Ammon Bundy, along with five other defendants, will be going to trial this week for their part in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge armed takeover earlier this year. The charges against the sixth defendant scheduled for trial, Pete Santilli, an internet broadcast personality, were dismissed yesterday. The Bundy’s have been in jail since their arrest in February and March of this year.
The Bundy’s, along with an unknown number of militia, thrill seekers and other assorted individuals, decided that the federal government did not have any right to land in the western states. The occupation of the federal lands was, in their words, a peaceful protest – unless authorities attempted to remove them from the land.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the occupation lasted 41 days and cost taxpayers over $8 million. The refuge is still not fully open to visitors as a result of damage by the occupiers.
The Bundy mindset, spoken many times during the occupation, can be summed up with Ryan Bundy’s bizarre court filing on July 28, 2016. In that document, he stated that Nevada and Oregon were union states and, as such, were not part of the United States. He further stated that the United States jurisdiction was limited to the District of Columbia and he was not governed by its laws. He referred to himself as a sovereign, meaning ruler or powerful, member of the Bundy society.
The trial promises to contain lively arguments of the rights of the federal government to own and control land in the states. Even so, the issue at hand is whether the Bundy’s and others prevented federal employees from doing their jobs. There is overwhelming evidence that that is exactly what they did.
Once this trial has ended, the Bundy’s and others face trial in Nevada for the 2014 showdown with the Bureau of Land Management, BLM, near Cliven Bundy’s ranch. According to The Washington Post, Bundy has had issues with the BLM since 1993 when he refused to keep his cattle off protected federal land and refused to pay his grazing fees. It was not until 2014, over 20 years later, that the BLM decided to do something about it. They rounded up the cattle that were on federal land illegally to seize them for unpaid fees that by this time amount to over $1 million. The Bundy’s and a large group of their followers arrived at the holding area and the BLM backed down to avoid bloodshed. All those who are known to have been involved in that standoff have now been arraigned on criminal charges.
In my opinion, the Bundy’s are nothing more than domestic terrorists. Their answer to anything that they are not happy with is to deny that the federal government has any control over them, and to take up arms against it. There are procedures in place to handle disputes, and those procedures do not include armed standoffs or armed occupations on any land.