I arrived at the Cliven Bundy Ranch Friday, April 18, 2014 through Sunday, April 20, 2014, taking a personal vacation and not on the taxpayer dime. I was invited by Oathkeepers and the Bundy family to come out and visit. I wanted to see what was really going on in that neck of the woods. There are plenty of opinions all around. I saw first hand many of the dynamics and actually spoke with Mr. Bundy, a 67 year old rancher, on the situation. The Bundy's have a modest, almost rustic residence and buildings, nothing like the Ewing Ranch of TV fame "Dallas".
You may think this is a Nevada issue, and why should I concern myself with a rancher in Nevada who is butting heads with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)? This does not impact Elkhart County, so why go to Nevada and get involved?
You and I should be concerned about what is occurring in Nevada, Oregon, California and New Mexico, and other states where Sheriffs and County Commissioners have interposed themselves between the Federal agencies such as BLM and Forest Service, and the people of their county. As the highest elected law enforcement officer in the nation, the Sheriff has great authority (and obligation) to protect the people from criminals, and sometimes an overreaching government itself. Even though this is currently occurring in Nevada, something similar will be coming to a location near you. You can bet on it. It may not be the BLM in Indiana, but it will be another alphabet soup Federal agency trying to flex their muscle.
I am very sensitive to Federal government overreach since my confrontation with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) over numerous and unreasonable inspections of an Amish milk farmer in Elkhart County back in 2011. The Feds had subpoenaed the farmer to appear before a grand jury in Michigan about a week later, likely to make an example out of him and put him out of business. The Amish farmer was committing a "horrible crime" of distributing raw milk to members of food co-ops in a private contract. No one was getting sick or harmed by the raw milk. The co-op members knew exactly what they were getting in raw milk. The farmer was not breaking any state law.
I told the DOJ attorney that any more Federal agents show up to inspect the farmer's property (as the farmer had withdrawn his consent), without a warrant based on probable cause and signed by a judge, that I would have them arrested for trespass or otherwise removed from the premises. I have to abide by the 4th Amendment; the Federal government needs to also. That action by your elected Sheriff (sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution) unleashed a dissertation and threat of arrest by the DOJ trial attorney, stating that the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution has always been known that Federal law (or vexations known at administrative rules promulgated often by unelected bureaucrats) overrules anything that state or local government could possibly have laws for or against. I reminded the attorney that the Supremacy Clause (which part he conveniently ignored) "shall be the supreme Law of the Land" only when "...the Laws of the United States shall be made in Pursuance thereof", meaning the Constitution. (Article 6, Sec 2)
Why do I get involved, on my vacation, even though this situation has no immediate impact on Elkhart County? Because I love people. I love my country. I love the Republic for which our flag stands. I left my family over the Easter weekend, missed a niece's birthday party, missed a church service celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, my Lord, because I love my family and do not want to see them live in a country where our freedom and liberties are eroded. Because I love people, I don't want to see Federal agents or those opposing those agents come to any harm. I'm seeing violence ready to break out. I was observing this in the media from Indiana and stated on Facebook, "My prediction: This is not going to end well. Another Waco? Another Ruby Ridge? I'm still hoping for a peaceful resolution." Yet, I observed people saying, "Bundy should be damned; he's trespassing... Whatever it takes to get him off the property...Kill the protesters and the family." Some people seem to be really violent and merciless, even without all the facts. Pride, at least on the law enforcement side, is stubborn and unyielding in this case. How can we maintain peace and avoid bloodshed? In any law enforcement action, I always strive to avoid bloodshed in my county. My family said I must go. So, I did.
Events leading up to my arrival: On April 9, BLM, encompassing an estimated 200 heavily armed agents, helicopters, and SUVs, swarmed the area of the disputed land and, according to the court order, were to impound the trespassing cattle and sell them at auction, purportedly to offset the unpaid grazing fees. Facing a situation they most certainly did not plan on; that of the family and others who supported the family (and who were also heavily armed, pursuant to their Second Amendment rights and legal under the state of Nevada), and protesting the action taken by the BLM, including the tasering of a Bundy son and Bundy's niece knocked to the ground, the BLM wisely blinked and stood down, leaving behind a mess, of which I will describe later.
The BLM claims that Bundy's cattle are on public land (Federal or State land, depending on your perspective, and literally out in the middle of nowhere.) I believe the cattle are on public land. There does not seem to be any dispute about this. Bundy had previously, until the 1990's, paid BLM to manage the land. However, BLM did not use the money to improve the land; Bundy improved the land. Ten years ago, the BLM offered to buy out Bundy's contract. Bundy refused. This would certainly seem that Bundy had more of an interest in the land then BLM claims now. Nevertheless, Bundy has lost a couple of recent Federal court battles and was told to get off the land. And, then there is the grazing fee, required by the BLM, to allow continuance of Bundy's cattle to be on the land. In 1993, Bundy quit paying the fee and offered the fee instead to Clark County officials, who refused to accept payment. Bundy is one of two last remaining ranchers in Clark County. I find it interesting that the BLM allowed Bundy to continue using the land until Senator Reid's buddy was appointed to the BLM a couple of weeks ago. Suspicious at best.
Nevada is different than Indiana, as most of the land (83%) in Nevada is considered Public Land and controlled by the Federal government in some form or fashion. According to Article I, Section 8.17, The Federal government is not to own land (outside of Washington DC) unless the state's legislature approves it. The land belongs to Nevada, a sovereign state in its own right. The problem is Nevada's state constitution actually acquiesces their land, purportedly as a requirement for statehood, regardless of the concept of the "Equal Footing Principle" of statehood for states beyond the original states formed. This concept, juxtaposed with the Bundy conflict, is at the heart of the issue. A growing number of western legislators are meeting, partially as a result of this conflict, to see what can be done about states reclaiming their land from the Feds, who neither paid nor asked the states, as required by the Constitution.
I really don't know if Bundy is correct in his stand; whether he truly owes money or not. Some people think he's a freeloader, using public land for his cattle. Yet, he is a hard worker, unlike others on welfare sponging off the taxpayer for no work. The tradition of ranchers using public land is centuries old. Bundy supporters agree that the issue is complex. However, what all people, including myself, would agree on, and likely sparked the patriot response to this event, is that we will not tolerate being governed by a Federal government at the point of a gun.
When BLM left the land last week, the discovery of what they left behind was unconscionable. The Bundy family found a mass grave (dug by BLM backhoes and dump trucks seen leaving the area on their exodus) containing numerous cattle that were killed by a bullet. Wait a minute. I thought the BLM was to impound and auction the cattle? Where are the environmentalists, PETA, or the Sheriff, at the uncalled slaughter of another man's cattle by government agents? The BLM further destroyed watering holes and fencing that was constructed by Bundy. And, incidentally, it was reported that part of the reason BLM were rounding up cattle is to protect the so-called endangered Desert Tortoise; laughable at best, when you consider the BLM just euthanized hundreds of turtles in the compound where they were caring for them, instead of releasing them to the wild, after BLM ran out of money. Again, where's the PETA outrage?
Incidentally, Saturday, April 21 was the anniversary of the Waco disaster where David Koresh and followers (including women and children) were killed by gun fire and a building fire that was started by the Feds. Then what happened? They buried the evidence quickly to keep people from nosing around. Seems as though BLM did not learn a lesson from Waco, and again attempted to cover their misconduct.
Then, what about those honorable Oathkeepers, patriots, 3 Percenters, and others who believe this event is a watershed moment for our nation? I met and visited with these men and women, coming from all walks of life, all races, and different religions. Some of these patriots quit their job and came to Nevada to keep their oath; to defend their nation against tyranny. Some are expecting to die here. Nevada U.S. Senator Harry Reid called them "domestic terrorists". Reid's comments were inflammatory and irresponsible, and did nothing to quell the potential for violence. The patriots are men and women who have come to the Bundy ranch to protect the Bundy's from a Federal government that has no logical reason to use force. These patriots are not domestic terrorists. I would not stand with terrorists. I'm convinced that the patriots will not fire the first shot. But, if and when the BLM agents return and start firing, the bloodshed will begin. It will be the battle of Bunkerville.
As for the report of women and children being placed out in front as shields during the initial confrontation, that action never occurred. It was wrongly strategized and verbalized by one person that was not even on the scene yet. It was never the intent of Oathkeepers and patriots to put harmless women and children in harms way. There were some women in front, but they were the spunky cowgirls that voluntarily rode with men to retrieve the Bundy cattle.
I'm trying to imagine...In Elkhart County if I received a court order to remove cattle from a public land, I would go speak to the owner of the cattle, and seek how to peacefully resolve this situation. I might even empathize with the owner of the cattle, and suggest further legal action on his part. But never would I bring my SWAT teams and patrol officers carrying rifles to a trespass call involving unarmed cattle! Ultimately, the Sheriff, the official with a name and recognizable face, with a phone number to contact him, would resolve the conflict, likely without any serious incident.
That, my friends, is the crux of this issue. The Federal government has no face, no name (except alphabets), no number to call, and no one to hold accountable if something goes wrong. The Sheriff can intervene, not because of ego or who's gun is bigger, but rather to be the public servant, whom the people elected, and whom can listen, talk, and negotiate a peaceful resolution. The Sheriff has to continue to live in the community he serves. The Feds return to places unknown, never having to live the consequences or see the fears and hear the citizen's life stories.
As for Mr. Bundy, he told me he was honored that I would come from Indiana to show support. I asked him how this situation could end peacefully. He told me that he does not recognize the Federal government, but that he would submit to his local Sheriff. The patriot groups also said that if the Sheriff got involved, they would stand down. Wow! Really! The local Sheriff of Clark County refuses to get involved, but could peacefully resolve this issue. Mr. Bundy, whether you think he's off his rocker or not, has said how this could be resolved. I entreat to the unapproachable Sheriff Gillespie of Clark County (who incidentally was given the spurious award of "2013 Sheriff of the Year" by the National Sheriff's Association-an organization of which I refuse to be a part of) would honor his oath, honor his citizens, and honor his public service, by getting involved in this situation to prevent the bloodshed that will occur between the Federal government and citizens.
I guarantee you, I would intervene if this was occurring in Elkhart County!
For the Republic,
Sheriff Brad Rogers, Elkhart County, Indiana
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org