An intense showdown in the state of Nevada between a family of ranchers and federal agents continues to escalate after a longstanding land dispute two decades in the making came to a head earlier this month.
As RT reported earlier this week, hundreds of armed agents with the United States Bureau of Land Management and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have descended on the Clark County, Nevada ranch of 67-year-old Cliven Bundy to execute the court-ordered confiscation of nearly 1,000 cattle, according to his family, which the US government says have trespassed on federal property.
The Washington Free Beacon newspaper reported on Monday this week that 234 of the 908 cattle had been wrangled up by government agents and their contractors, and news of the dispute has since further propelled the story into the national spotlight.
According to a notice posted by the Federal Aviation Administration a no-fly zone was enacted for a 3-square-mile area around the site of the Bundy's ranch. That advisory would remain in effect from April 11 until May 11.
Local cowboys have retrieved some of the confiscated cattle according to several reports, and supporters of the Bundy ranch from around the region have flocked to Nevada to stand by their side.
Since the Beacon first reported on the standoff earlier the week, tensions have only worsened in Clark County. Video emerged online on Wednesday of the rancher’s son, Ammon Bundy, bloodied after being shocked by an electric Taser used by authorities, and Desert News reported that, according to Cliven Bundy, his own sister was knocked to the ground by officials moments before cameras began to roll.
One witness, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, told reporters that “Serious bloodshed was narrowly avoided” as a pregnant woman was also roughed up during the ordeal.
"We never did have any hand-to-hand combat this morning or up to his time," Mr. Bundy told the newspaper on Thursday afternoon. "But there's like 200 armed military people on my ranch. That's pretty bad to have that much armed force against American people."
Countering those personnel are supporters of the Bundy ranch who say the family must be protected from a tyrannical government.
“We need to be the barrier between the oppressed and the tyrants,” Ryan Payne told the Review-Journal. “Expect to see a band of soldiers.”
Payne and other supporters drove from as far away as 12 hours outside of Clark County to come stand by the ranchers’ side, the paper reported, and have received the blessing of well-organized militias from within the region. Payne, a member of the West Mountain Rangers, is also the coordinator of what he described to the paper as being a national association composed of state militias.
Several US senators and the state of Nevada this week also criticized what has been called the result of an “overreaching” agency acting overzealously, but federal officials say the rancher’s cattle are simply not allowed to roam on the disputed land, which the government insists is federal property. According to the BLM, Bundy owes around $1 million in fees that he’s incurred since 1993 when he lost his grazing permit for the chunk of land that had been in his family since the 1870s.
"I would pay my grazing fees to the proper government, which I would say is Clark County, Nevada," he added to the Deseret News on Thursday.
"I don't believe I owe one penny to the United States government," Bundy said. "I don't have a contract with the United States government."
That same day, Bundy’s son Ammon told reporter David Knight that a group of around 20 cowboys had entered the disputed land and quickly retrieved roughly 30 cattle before the federal official could respond.
“We gathered about 30 head,” he said. “We did have a small confrontation with them, but they didn’t have the forces to do a whole lot. They couldn’t mobilize fast enough and we were able to gather those cattle and get them to the ranch.”
Amy Leuders, the director of the BLM's Nevada office, told reporters on Thursday that authorities have been moving in only as a “last resort” resulting from 20 years of Bundy’s noncompliance with regards to paying grazing fees.
According to Leuders, cattle caught trespassing on the federal land will be sold at auction.