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Federal government deploys militarized agents against cattle in Nevada

Photo credit: Famartin

For twenty years, the government has been trying to force Cliven Bundy to pay to graze his cattle on public land in Nevada. For twenty years, Bundy—who lives on a ranch his family has operated for centuries—has resisted the pressure and refused to pay. It looks like the Bureau of Land Management has finally won. And it’s bringing in heavily armed, militarized police to enforce a court order to remove Bundy’s "trespass cattle" from the land, once and for all.

The rancher spoke with the Washington Times about the extreme arsenal the federal government rained down on him and his cattle.

“They’re carrying the same things a soldier would,” he said. “Automatic weapons, sniper rifles, top communication, top surveillance equipment, lots of vehicles. It’s heavy soldier type equipment.”

His wife, Carol Bundy, said that roughly 200 armed agents from the BLM and FBI are stationed around their land, located about 75 miles outside of Las Vegas. Helicopters circle the premises, and the airspace and nearby roads remain blocked.

“We’re surrounded,” Carol Bundy said. “We’re estimating that there are over 200 armed BLM, FBI. We’ve got surveillance cameras at our house, they’re probably listening to me talk to you right now.”

A National Park Service spokesman denied there were armed guards rounding up the cattle in a conference call on Tuesday. However, she confirmed that there was “security” in place, citing threats to the contractors who are removing the cattle.

“Contractors are here and they are in place to round-up the cattle and to bring them to the impound area,” Christie Vanover said. “As for security, there [is] security in place, but that is merely to protect the contractors.”

According to the Washington Times, by Monday this week the BLM had seized over 200 of Bundy’s nearly 1,000 cattle. Not taking into account the court fees over the decades-long battle to force the rancher to pay up, the operation to remove them will cost the government approximately three million dollars. The BLM claims Bundy owes one million dollars in back fees.

Bundy the rancher says that his local and state governments have been powerless to stop the assault by federal authorities. Worse yet, the BLM has set up a dreaded "First Amendment Zone" near the site of the disputed land, where Bundy and his friends and neighbors are confined to demonstrate against the seizing of cattle, the militarized SWAT response, and the expansive surveillance against Bundy and his family, which includes helicopters.

"The story is a lot about the cattle, but the bigger story is about our loss of freedom," his wife, Carol Bundy, told the newspaper. "They have come and taken over this whole corner of the county. They’ve taken over policing power, they’ve taken over our freedom, and they’re stealing cattle. And our sheriff says he just doesn’t have authority, our governor says he doesn’t have authority, and we’re saying, why are we a state?"

"This is just about the power of the government," she said. Indeed.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.