An uprising of militia members who were planning an “armed response” to federal enforcement of trespassing law ended peacefully Saturday after the Bureau of Land Management stopped rounding up cattle that a federal judge found have been illegally grazed on federal land for years.
But some allies of rancher Cliven Bundy were prepared to make as much of a media spectacle as possible if violence were to erupt, saying they would put women on the front lines in the event federal officials turned to deadly force. Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack told Fox News Monday, as reported by the Blaze:
We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front. If they are going to start shooting, it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers.
Mack, a self-professed Tea Partier, is one of a host of right-wing figures who stood behind Bundy and made him a conservative celebrity after he refused to pay grazing fees based on his claim that the federal government is not entitled to own land.
Mack served as sheriff for Graham County between 1988 and 1997, and is part of a group known as the “Oath Keepers” that denies the supremacy of federal law and has been deemed part of a wave of new militia groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He was also a plaintiff in the lawsuit against the federal government that challenged the constitutionality of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.
Court orders going back to 1998 have required Bundy to pay fees to graze his livestock on federal land known as the Bunkerville Allotment. After Bundy refused to obey that order for 15 years, the Bureau of Land Management obtained a new order last October mandating that Bundy remove his cattle within 45 days or face seizure by the federal government. Bundy declined to comply with the order, and ranchers had wrangled some 352 cattle by last Wednesday.
But after Tea Party public figures including Fox News’ Sean Hannity and Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity celebrated Bundy’s defiance, supporters that included several militia groups pledged to provide an “armed response,” culminating in a showdown Wednesday in which federal rangers deployed stun guns and police dogs.
Officials released all the cattle Saturday to avert escalated violence, but both Bureau of Land Management officials and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have assured Nevadans that other legal action will be pursued. There are a number of legal avenues available to officials, including criminal charges. But Cliven Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that his family has no plans to pay fees now estimated at around $1 million, and that if arrests are made, “it will cause an uproar and it will be 10 times bigger than this.”