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'You Need to Die': Cliven Bundy and Violent Militias Still Terrorizing Utah, Nevada

Donald Sterling stole the spotlight, but the menace from Bundy's supporters continues—and might be getting worse.

Photo Credit: screengrab via youtube


When Cliven Bundy decided to share with America “one more thing I know about the Negro,” most people immediately assumed his 15 minutes of fame we up—particularly when Donald Sterling quickly overshadowed him—and they were probably right.

But that hardly means that nothing significant has happened around Bundy since. Quite the opposite.

The explosion of attention he garnered does not come out of nowhere, it comes out of decades of political organizing, theorizing and scheming. And what’s been happening in and around the Bundy Ranch over the past month seems sure to shape the further evolution, not just of the hard right fringes from which he and his close defenders hail, but the much wider range of rightwing political culture which sympathetically supported him, and still feels “he had a point.”

In fact, the first violent fruits of that further evolution may be just around the corner, as the increased threats have already begun to fly—almost comically in internal battles between different factions at Bundy’s ranch, but also with serious menace directed against Bureau of Land Management personnel in neighboring Utah.

But, most important of all, the outbreak of violence between Bundy supporters—including threats of shooting one another—dramatically illustrates the utter foolishness of the “good man with a gun” formulation.  It’s not like this should be a stunning revelation. The American South—a classic “honor culture”—has always been bedeviled by high levels of violence in which both parties clearly saw themselves as good. Indeed they were fighting precisely to defend their good name, their reputation, their honor.  That legacy is alive and well in the militia movement of today… and it threatens to overspill its banks and flood the rest of America, if we let it.

Here, then, is a quick rundown of what’s happened since the spotlight shifted:

Bundy’s land claims were revealed as bogus. Even though it’s legally irrelevant to owing grazing fees, Cliven Bundy had claimed that he should be exempt, because of “”ancestral rights,” claiming that his family had worked the land since the 1870s, well before the BLM came into existence. But a  report from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas revealed that even this excuse was pure fabrication on Bundy’s part. His family had actually purchased the land in 1948 from Raoul and Ruth Leavitt, according to Clark County property records.

Response to intimidation of the community: Late last month, Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nevada, sent a letter to Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie,  Fox-5 Las Vegas reported, concerning the militia members who remained in Bunkerville at and around the Bundy ranch. Horsford cited claims that armed militia members had set up checkpoints where they required residents to prove they live in the area before being allowed to pass, and have also established a presence along highways and roads, as well as in community areas, including churches and schools. Later statements by Bundy and his supporters inadvertently buttressed these claims–in part because Bundy has no grasp of the difference between public and private land–though it’s not clear how widespread such menacing activities were. In the letter, Horsford said, “I am greatly concerned about the safety and well-being of my constituents after meeting with local community members this past week. I urge Sheriff Gillespie to investigate these reports, as this sort of intimidation cannot be tolerated.”

Horsford was careful to strike a balanced tone. “We must respect individual constitutional liberties, but residents of and visitors to Clark County should not be expected to live under the persistent watch of an armed militia,” he wrote. “Residents have expressed their desire to see these groups leave their community. I urge you to investigate these reports and to work with local leaders to ensure that their concerns are addressed in a manner that allows the community [to] move forward without incident.”

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