CLARK COUNTY, Nev. – Video of an altercation between protesters and federal agents Wednesday has gone viral across social media and the news. Shown in the video are protesters – among whom are members of the Bundy family – shouting at agents of the Bureau of Land Management. The protesters are blocking a dump truck from getting onto the road while the BLM agents attempt to move them away.
In two separate videos posted online, one of the protesters is hit with a stun gun, while another is thrown to the ground by a BLM agent after getting too close to a passing vehicle.
The clash between the BLM and the protesters stems from the federal agency’s removal of some 900 cattle from public lands in Clark County, Nev., that began Monday. The BLM says the cattle are illegally grazing on public lands, while the rancher Cliven Bundy, the owner of the cattle, claims the federal agency is violating his constitutional rights and is engaged in cattle rustling.
The BLM confirmed in a statement that an altercation had taken place Wednesday and that agents did use tasers on a protester. The agency also said a BLM truck had been struck by a protester on an all-terrain vehicle, and that a police dog had also been kicked during the incident.
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Video courtesy of GMN Telemedia/YouTube
“In recent days, some peaceful protests have crossed into illegal activity, including blocking vehicles associated with the gather, impeding cattle movement, and making direct and overt threats to government employees,” the BLM stated. “These isolated actions that have jeopardized the safety of individuals have been responded to with appropriate law enforcement actions.”
The BLM said the ATV and a large group of protesters had blocked and surrounded “a BLM truck driven by a non-law enforcement civilian employee …. Law enforcement officers attempting to protect the civilian federal employee from the attack were also threatened and assaulted. After multiple requests and ample verbal warnings, law enforcement officers deployed tasers on a protester.”
The protester hit with the taser was Ammon Bundy, one of Cliven Bundy’s sons.
Ryan Bundy, Ammon’s brother, said the group had stopped the BLM truck, a dump truck, in order to find out what it was hauling. On the video, a man can be heard shouting a question about why the BLM is using a backhoe.
Ammon Bundy was able to jump up and get a quick glimpse of what was in the back of the truck, Ryan Bundy said, and described seeing pieces of ranch infrastructure and associated debris. In other words, the BLM is tearing out corrals and other improvements the Bundys have made to the range, Ryan Bundy said. As well, the Bundys suspect the BLM is using the heavy equipment to help remove cattle killed during the roundup operation.
“They are killing cattle and tearing up our infrastructure,” Ryan Bundy said. He said that the BLM and their contracted help are running the cattle hard with their helicopters and are causing them to break down from exhaustion. The cattle that can’t keep moving are exterminated via “mercy killings,” the Bundys claim.
As well, it’s calving season, Ryan Bundy said, and many calves are being left behind as their mothers are rounded up, which will ultimately spell doom for young cattle as they starve to death. “They are killing them,” he said.
KLAS-TV out of Las Vegas reports the BLM has denied intentionally killing any cattle.
During the altercation, Ammon Bundy was hit by a taser three times, Ryan Bundy said. Though not directly shown on the video, Margaret Bundy-Houston, a sister of Cliven Bundy, was thrown to the ground when she approached too close to a passing vehicle. The incident involving Bundy-Houston was caught on video by another individual in the group.
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Video courtesy of sergionewsman/Instagram
This is the second confrontation between the Bundys and federal agents. On Sunday, Dave Bundy, another one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, was arrested by BLM agents while filming roundup activities in an area that had been closed to the public. He was released from custody the next day, having been charged with failure to respond to multiple requests to leave, as well as resisting arrest.
Though the BLM states its activities are sanctioned by federal court orders, it has nonetheless received extensive criticism from various sources. On Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement regarding the BLM’s conduct up to that point. He also attacked the use of the agency’s use of a designated First Amendment zone.
The governor said:
“Due to the roundup by the BLM, my office has received numerous complaints of BLM misconduct, road closures and other disturbances. I have recently met with state legislators, county officials and concerned citizens to listen to their concerns. I have expressed those concerns directly to the BLM.
“Most disturbing to me is the BLM’s establishment of a ‘First Amendment Area’ that tramples upon Nevadans’ fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution. To that end, I have advised the BLM that such conduct is offensive to me and countless others and that the ‘First Amendment Area’ should be dismantled immediately. No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation which currently exists nor the limitation of constitutional rights that are sacred to all Nevadans. The BLM needs to reconsider its approach to this matter and act accordingly.”
Ryan Bundy confirmed Thursday that the BLM has dismantled the First Amendment zone located near Interstate 15 Exit 12 in Nevada.
Though Cliven Bundy has gained support from far and wide, the BLM is not backing off in its plans to roundup and impound the some 900 cattle, estimates vary, that have been left to illegally roam and graze on public lands for the last 20 years. The whole affair began in 1993 after Cliven Bundy refused to continue paying grazing fees to the BLM. It was at this time the agency began to add regulations and restrictions on grazing in favor of preserving desert tortoise habitat found in the Gold Butte area of Clark County.
BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said Cliven Bundy owes the federal government $1.1 million in grazing and trespass fees and that impounding the cattle is done as a last resort given Bundy has had ample time to comply with federal court orders.
Cliven Bundy, who refuses to acknowledge the BLM’s federal authority, has said the issue is bigger than him. He claims it the be a matter of state sovereignty and calls the BLM a trespasser on Nevada state lands, and that his rights to graze cattle on the disputed range were secured and inherited from his ancestors who settled the area in the 1870s.
As of Wednesday, the BLM reports that 352 trespass cattle have been impounded. BLM operations are ongoing.
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