Supporters of embattled Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy on Friday filed a long list of complaints with police about the behavior of federal Bureau of Land Management agents who last month launched a high-profile, heavily armed roundup of cattle he had grazing on public range land – essentially accusing the government of thuggery.
Government agents blocked roads, loosed attack dogs, threatened people and pointed weapons and even harassed photographers, Bundy supporters alleged, according to an AP report about the complaints. Ironically, the police at the same time reported that they had feared for their own lives when dispatched to make sure hundreds of armed Bundy supporters didn’t end up in a firefight with armed federal officers.
But Bundy told WND Friday that he wasn’t there to tell police – or supporters – what they need to be doing, he was just trying to assess damage to his ranch and cattle herd from the partial roundup, and move forward.
He said he hasn’t heard yet from the federal government about any of the disputed issues.
Actually, he told WND, he has gotten a couple of certified letters, but hasn’t opened them, saying he’s going to “give them to my attorney.”
A solution to the entire confrontation is simple, he said: The BLM should leave and let the county and state manage the open range for the benefit of the people.
The rancher has refused to pay public land grazing fees to Washington, D.C., for many years already, insisting the fees belong to the county and state.
The government started the current extended showdown when it went to court for an order to round up Bundy’s cattle and sell them for the fees. That strategy disintegrated in the middle of April when Bundy refused to back down, and instead, hundreds of armed westerners joined him. The BLM agents also were armed, but ended up backing off, releasing the cattle they had captured, and leaving.
At that point, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised the confrontation with Bundy, whose side had had described repeatedly as “domestic terrorists,” wasn’t over.
In a WND interview Friday, Bundy said he and his wife didn’t file the complaints with the Las Vegas police, but he knew some of those supporting him did visit with officers to raise about 40 complaints over BLM activities.
He also challenged statements police made to KLAS-Television, which indicated a high level of concern for everyone’s safety.
“We didn’t show any fear that day,” Sgt. Tom Jenkins of the Las Vegas Metro department told the station, “but I can tell you, we all thought in the back of our minds, we all thought it was going to be our last day on earth, if it went bad.”
The officers were dispatched to keep a neutral zone between Bundy supporters and federal agents.
“We were told, we’re going to go down there and we’re going to get between the BLM and the protesters. We were going, OK, we’ve been there before, but as we were driving up, it was like a movie set. It didn’t look real; people in the back of pickup trucks with rifles and shotguns. It was hard to grasp that at the beginning,” he said.
Their fear, shared by many, was that a situation could develop “that would have left a lot of dead officers.”
Bundy told WND, “They kept themselves pretty safe.”
He said the only time he really noticed them was when they did form a barrier, and “they did give the BLM time to leave.”
Bundy said it would be really nice if those certified letters were apologies for the damage to his operation.
“I haven’t really even gotten out on the ranch to analyze the destruction of improvements,” he said. Earlier reports said water facilities and fencing were damaged.
“I’m short 29 head of cattle,” Bundy said. “Another died today from the abuse. We’re dealing with 27 dogies … and the cows are still looking pretty rough.”
The AP reported the complaints against the federal officers, which were being investigated, were filed by three of Bundy’s sons and about a dozen other people.
It was after the BLM had departed that Reid started making highly controversial statements alleging “domestic terrorism,” and Bundy was back looking after his crops and animals when, during a press availability for reporters, a second controversy erupted.
That was because Bundy commented about blacks and slavery, a statement Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, told WND was taken out of context by the New York Times, but which nevertheless has dominated news coverage of the Bundy family ever since.
“They took what they wanted. They knew when they were there his comments were not racist. He wasn’t able to completely articulate,” Ammon Bundy told WND. “That’s just my dad. He is a very principled person.”
Racism accusations aside, the major land-use and government-overreach issues may be coming to a head in the coming weeks. At its core is a claim Bundy, 67, has made for decades:
He holds the position that since his ranch operation, run by his family for more than 100 years, was grazing cattle before the BLM existed, his fees should be paid to the state, not Washington, D.C. More than 1,000 supporters, including armed militia members, joined Bundy at his ranch in a standoff with federal agents last month.
On Easter Sunday, Bundy said he respects the federal government, pledging allegiance to the flag.
“But [the government] has its place. It doesn’t have its place in the state of Nevada and … Clark County, and that’s where my ranch is. The federal government has no power and no ownership of this land, and they don’t want to accept that,” he said.
“I don’t stand alone,” he continued, “I have all of the prayers from lots of people around the world, and I feel those prayers. And those prayers take the tremble out of my legs. And I can stand strong and straight. And you know the spirit from our heavenly Father, I seek that every morning on my knees. And he gives me some guidance, and I go forth and I actually feel good. My health is good, my spirit is good and I feel strength. I do, I feel strength, I feel even happiness. And I have no idea where I’m going with this. It’s a day-by-day spiritual thing for me.”
Listen to Dianne Linderman’s entire 18-minute Easter interview with Cliven Bundy: