Monday, February 01, 2016

Bundy clan leader unrepentant even as Oregon refuge occupation collapses

Two of Cliven Bundy's sons sit in an Oregon jail, their protest over government land policies crushed by federal lawmen. Yet, when the rebellion's patriarch surveys the land around his Nevada ranch, he sees only signs of victory. Gone now are the federal officers who used to show up at his door asking about the $2 million he owes for grazing his cattle on U.S. property. The rangers in their white pickup trucks are rarely seen since the night last summer when two government workers were chased from the area by gunfire. "They're leaving me alone," the 69-year-old Bundy said on a late January afternoon as he took a break from rounding up stray livestock on a parcel of desert scrub an hour's drive northeast of Las Vegas. "In this part of Clark County and on Bundy ranch, we say we're the freest place on Earth." By outward appearances, Washington appears to have indeed given up on the fight with the man who started the protest movement that erupted in violence last week near Burns, Oregon. Some locals have taken to calling the area "Bundystan," a kind of rebel enclave on taxpayer-owned land. Makeshift signs erected by Bundy's supporters welcome visitors to enjoy "A free land, by the people." Whether Bundy and his ranch will remain free is unclear. Obama administration officials say they are moving forward with the case against the cattleman whose sagebrush revolt became a cause celebre for groups opposed to federal ownership of western lands. But, U.S. officials also are anxious to avoid violence, particularly in the wake of the arrests last week outside a wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon that left one protester dead. "They have no jurisdiction or authority, and they have no policing power," Bundy, ever defiant, said in an interview. "They have no business here." "My sons and those who were there were there to do good. No harm was intended," he said in a video posted Thursday by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "This will be a wake-up call to America." A solidly built son of Mormon cattlemen, Bundy speaks with the conviction of someone who believes the Constitution is on his side. Standing by a windswept desert highway in late afternoon, he patiently walked a visitor through his interpretation of Article 4, which delineates responsibilities for federal and state governments. He spoke in a soft drawl, wearing boots soiled with mud and manure. "The land belongs to 'We the People,' " Bundy said. "We own the rights, like the rest of the public, to go out there and fish and camp and hunt. The federal government does not have that right. They're not citizens of Clark County." Courts and legal scholars have repeatedly rejected such views. The land where Bundy's cows graze has been owned by Washington since 1848 when the territory that is now Nevada was annexed following the U.S. war with Mexico...more

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