Ever since the Bureau of Land Management has moved in to round up Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle, people from around the nation have flocked to the area to both protest the government’s actions and defend Bundy and his family. What used to be a peaceful ranch in the desert has turned into a scene reminiscent of a warzone, complete with armed soldiers and base camps for both the government and Bundy’s supporters.
The situation has polarized the nation with a contentious issue, states’ rights versus federal government’s rights, and those is support of Bundy say he’s fighting for a just cause while those against him say he’s nothing more than a criminal.
Two journalists from the LATimes took a trip out to Nevada to document the scene, which they described as peaceful but people are still on edge after the tense week-long standoff that ended only after the federal government decided to back down. However two weeks later, Bundy’s supporters have made a stronghold in what they call “Camp Tripwire” and appear to have dug themselves in for the long haul.
Driving into the ranch there’s American flags tied to guardrails and flapping in the wind, leading you to the “Patriot Checkpoint,” as it’s called.
Upon arriving there they said there were “Scores of grim citizen militiamen in combat fatigues — semiautomatic weapons slung over their shoulders, ammunition magazines at their belts — patrol from a base they call Camp Tripwire.”
Signs were hung along the fences with patriotic messages written across them while “citizen soldiers” wielding AR-15s and AK-47s are on patrol to protect the camp.
The government says that Bundy owes them $1 million in grazing fees for letting his cattle graze in the Gold Butte area, however Bundy has refused to acknowledge that the federal government controls the land and says he has rights to it since his family has worked it since fore the BLM was created.
That’s what has led to the scene that has unfolded. When the government moved in with its heavy-handed tactics, those who see the federal government as cumbersome and intrusive saw it as a call to action to take a stand. As the writers for the LATimes put it, “Suddenly, truck drivers, pizza deliverymen and ex-cops from as far away as New Hampshire and Georgia converged upon this unincorporated ranching town.”
Bundy’s supporters see this case as everything that is wrong with our country and the government. A peaceful man trying to earn a living is being hit with excessive fees for the “right” to use the land.
As the Times points out, this situation bears a striking resemblance to the Sagebrush Rebellion during the 1970’s. The movement that involved mass civil disobedience sought to give more local control to the western states where the federal government owns nearly 60% of the land. In Nevada, they own 87%.
The people at Camp Tripwire talk about other deadly clashes with the government, they said. Waco, Texas and Ruby Ridge are the two most popular topics and a man that goes by the name of Mark explained why militiamen from around the country flocked to the area.
“We showed up so there’s no slaughter like Ruby Ridge,” he said. “A blind chimp can see this is a bad situation. But we’re not wackos. We’re here as defenders, trying to do what’s right in our hearts.”
He told the journalists that when he had arrived on the scene two weeks ago it brought tears to his eyes to see “Americans, refusing to cow to the federal government, blindly, like cattle. They were taking a stand.”
The argument has gone beyond the people who support Bundy and those within the BLM, in Washington the divide is pretty much along party lines with Harry Reid calling Bundy a “domestic terrorist” and his Republican counterpart from Nevada Dean Heller calling him a “patriot.”
Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz reminded everyone that the federal government works for the people land that “It doesn’t feel that way out West.” He feels that a lot of people arounf the country can related to Bundy even if they don’t agree with what he’s doing. He also doesn’t think it will be long before shots are fired since many Western ranchers feel that Washington doesn’t care about them.
Former BLM director Bob Abbey doesn’t have any sympathy for Bundy but acknowledges that “there is a segment of our population in the United States that feels disenfranchised.” However “Mr. Bundy is not a victim by any means,” he added.
The situation became even more polarizing last week when Bundy made seemingly racist comments regarding the black population in America. Many rushed to immediate judgment but his supporters have stayed true to him and don’t believe what he said was meant to insult anyone.
Attempting to fight off the backlash from his remarks, Bundy’s wife Carol came to his defense and said “What he was saying is that there are lots of different forms of slavery. Welfare is one kind. It’s just another way to suppress people.”
Even so, Harry Reid has now gone from calling Bundy a “domestic terrorist” to a “hateful racist,” trying to draw attention from the real issue at hand.
When the two journalists arrived at the camp they were greeted by a guard dressed in full military gear. They requested permission to enter and the man radioed to someone to get authorization to allow them in.
He had a rifle on hand but didn’t have it shouldered, when they asked him why he told them that Bundy didn’t want them carrying them around but he wasn’t supposed to tell anybody about that.
Upon talking to the camp’s commander, Jerry DeLemus, they found out the reason the bae was named “Tripwire.” He said “If anyone comes here to do anything bad, they’re going to trip on us,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to stop them, but we’ll slow them down.”
He explained that nobody knows how long they’re going to remain at the ranch, but that people have lost jobs because of being there.
Meanwhile Bundy’s wife gave some insight into why the militiamen around the base weren’t too friendly to the reporters. She said there’s been a lot of media in and out, and that they’re started to get frustrated and protective, who could blame them with the way things have been distorted throughout the ordeal.
Later in the day they witnessed Bundy speaking with supporters under a tree nearby. He explained that since the government has backed down he has refused to open five different certified letters from the BLM. “I’ve challenged the federal government’s authority,” he said. “That’s why they want to kill Cliven Bundy.”
He admitted he doesn’t want the militia at his ranch for the rest of his life, but he said “I sure do want them here today.”