- Bureau of Land Management would not enforce court order to remove cattle and was pulling out of the area
- Politicians have compared the standoff to Tienanmen Square
- The Bundy family says they’ve owned the 600,000 acres since 1870 but the Bureau of Land Management says they are illegally grazing
- The dispute began in 1993 when land was reclassified as to federal property to protect a rare desert tortoise, the government claimed
- Federal officers stormed the property this week with helicopters and snipers to back up about 200 armed agents
- They have reportedly seized around 350 of Cliven Bundy’s 900 cattle
- Cattle were handed back to rancher after tense standoff
- Tensions escalated after private militias poured in to support the family
PUBLISHED: 23:42 EST, 11 April 2014 | UPDATED: 06:26 EST, 13 April 2014
Federal officials ended a stand-off with hundreds of armed protesters in the Nevada desert on Saturday, calling off the government’s roundup of cattle it said were illegally grazing on federal land and giving about 300 animals back to the rancher who owned them.
The dispute less than 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas between rancher Cliven Bundy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management had simmered for days.
Bundy had stopped paying fees for grazing his cattle on the government land and officials said he had ignored court orders.
Celebration: A supporter of the Bundy family flies the American flag after the Bureau of Land Management agreed to release the Bundy’s cattle near Bunkerville, Nev. April 12, 2014
Victor: Rancher Cliven Bundy at his home in Bunkerville, after officials called off the government’s roundup of cattle
And they’re out: The Bundy family and their supporters drive their cattle back onto public land outside of Bunkerville, Nev. after they were released by the Bureau of Land Management
Anti-government groups, right-wing politicians and gun-rights activists camped around Bundy’s ranch to support him, in a standoff that tapped into long-simmering anger in Nevada and other Western states, where vast tracts of land are owned and governed by federal agencies.
The bureau had called in a team of armed rangers to Nevada to seize the 1,000 head of cattle on Saturday but backed down in the interests of safety.
‘Based on information about conditions on the ground and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public,’ the bureau’s director, Neil Kornze, said in a statement.
The protesters, who at the height of the standoff numbered about 1,000, met the news with applause. Then they quickly advanced on the metal pens where the cattle confiscated earlier in the week were being held.
After consultations with the rancher’s family, the bureau decided to release the cattle it had rounded up, and the crowd began to disperse.
‘This is what I prayed for,’ said Margaret Houston, one of Bundy’s sisters. ‘We are so proud of the American people for being here with us and standing with us.’
Mission accomplished: Supporters of the Bundy family hang a sign on the I-15 highway just outside of Bunkerville, Nevada
The dispute between Bundy and federal land managers began in 1993 when he stopped paying monthly fees of about $1.35 per cow-calf pair to graze public lands
Cowboys and patriots: Kholten Gleave, right, of Utah, pauses for the National Anthem outside of Bunkerville , Nev. while gathering with other supporters of the Bundy family to challenge the Bureau of Land Management
A number of Bundy’s supporters, who included militia members from California, Idaho and other states, dressed in camouflage and carried rifles and sidearms. During the stand-off, some chanted ‘open that gate’ and ‘free the people.’
A man who identified himself as Scott, 43, said he had traveled from Idaho along with two fellow militia members to support Bundy.
‘If we don’t show up everywhere, there is no reason to show up anywhere,’ said the man, dressed in camouflage pants and a black flak jacket crouched behind a concrete highway barrier, holding an AR-15 rifle. ‘I’m ready to pull the trigger if fired upon,’ Scott said.
The dispute between Bundy and federal land managers began in 1993 when he stopped paying monthly fees of about $1.35 per cow-calf pair to graze public lands that are also home to imperiled animals such as the Mojave Desert tortoise.
Land managers limited the Bundy herd to just 150 head on a land which the rancher claims has been in his family for more than 140 years.
The government also claims Bundy has ignored cancellation of his grazing leases and defied federal court orders to remove his cattle.
‘We won the battle,’ said Ammon Bundy, one of the rancher’s sons.
Hundreds of Bundy supporters, some heavily armed, had camped on the road leading to his ranch in a high desert spotted with sagebrush and mesquite trees.
No horsing around: The Bundy family and their supporters fly the American flag as their cattle were released from a corral
Cheers: Protesters pump their fists as cowboys herd cattle that belongs to rancher Cliven Bundy
Firepower: Protester Eric Parker from central Idaho aims his weapon from a bridge next to the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp where seized cattle
Victory speech: Rancher Cliven Bundy, middle, addresses his supporters along side Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, right, informing the public that the BLM has agreed to cease the roundup of his family’s cattle
Some held signs reading ‘Americans united against government thugs,’ while others were calling the rally the ‘Battle of Bunkerville,’ a reference to a American Revolutionary War battle of Bunker Hill in Boston.
The large crowd at one point blocked all traffic on Interstate 15. Later, as lanes opened up, motorists honked to support the demonstrators and gave them a thumbs-up sign.
In an interview prior to the bureau’s announcement, Bundy said he was impressed by the level of support he had received.
‘I’m excited that we are really fighting for our freedom. We’ve been losing it for a long time,’ Bundy said.
An official with an environmental group that had notified the government it would sue unless federal land managers sought to protect tortoises on the grazing allotment used by Bundy’s cattle expressed outrage at the end of the cattle roundup.
‘The sovereign militias are ruling the day,’ said Rob Mrowka, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. ‘Now that this precedent has been set and they’re emboldened by the government’s capitulation, what’s to stop them from applying the same tactics and threats elsewhere?’
Roger Taylor, retired district manager with the Bureau of Land Management in Arizona, also said the agency’s decision to release the cattle will have repercussions.
‘The (agency) is going to be in a worse situation where they will have a much more difficult time getting those cattle off the land and getting Bundy in compliance with regulations,’ he said.
Deal: Cliven Bundy shakes hands with Sheiff Doug Gillespie on Saturday morning as the rancher comes to a deal to stop federal agents rounding up his cattle
Show down: Ranchers on horseback and protesters gather at the BLM camp to try to claim back cattle the agency has already rounded up
As it announced earlier today that it was backing off, the BLM said it did so because it feared for the safety of employees and members of the public.
Despite the week-long protest being called off, there were claims that nearly two dozen police
and a SWAT team were waiting on the road near the encampment.
There have been no threats of violence from the protesters, who were asked to leave any guns they may have in their vehicles before coming to the camp.
In previous days, men carrying AK-47s and handguns had been pictured at the camp in southern Nevada that was set up in protest at the bureau’s attempt to confiscate cattle from Bundy, whose family has been working the land for centuries.
Protesters arrive at the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp where cattle that were already seized are being held
Traffic along the highway has been brought to a standstill as protesters move towards the BLM camp
Earlier, the BLM had offered to pay Bundy for the cattle it has already rounded up, but protesters demanded they be released to the rancher.
The cattle were being held in a corral near Mesquite, close to where the SWAT team were spotted.
About an hour after Bundy agreed a deal with the county sheriff, about 100 protesters, some armed and on horseback, headed to the corral.
After tense talks and a standoff, the BLM finally agreed to return the cattle to Bundy. A growing crowd of armed protesters who had gathered at the gate of the base camp were ordered to wait for 30 minutes to give both sides time to talk.
By 5pm ET, an agreement had been made that the bureau would release the animals back to the rancher.
had pleaded with drivers Saturday afternoon to avoid the highway from Las Vegas to Mesquite, as protesters swelled out across the road, causing it to be cut off in both directions.
The BLM had said its agents would not be able to leave until protesters are at a safe distance, according to 8 News Now
Brothers in arms: Rancher Cliven Bundy (2nd R) is escorted Friday by militia members in Bunkerville, Nevada
Armed: Brand Thornton, of Las Vegas, blows a shofar on a hillside above a protest area on Friday
The dispute that triggered the roundup dates to 1993, when the BLM cited concern for the federally protected tortoise. The agency later revoked grazing rights for Bundy, who is the last rancher in Clark County.
BLM director Neil Kornze said on Saturday however: ‘Based on information about conditions on the ground, and in consultation with law enforcement, we have made a decision to conclude the cattle gather because of our serious concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.’
Bundy claims ancestral rights to graze his cattle on lands his Mormon family settled in the 19th century. He stopped paying grazing fees and disregarded several court orders to remove his animals.
BLM officials say Bundy now owes more than $1.1million in unpaid grazing fees.
‘I have no contract with the United States government. I was paying grazing fees for management and that’s what BLM was supposed to be, land managers and they were managing my ranch out of business, so I refused to pay,’ the rancher told ABC News
Supporters for Bundy said about 300 protesters had arrived to help campaign on the rancher’s behalf. The BLM put the number at 100.
The tense week-long protest had come to an end after Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie brokered a deal with Bundy Saturday morning.
The sheriff has been negotiating with the rancher for months, and the pair met at the ranch today to finalize the deal, according to 8 News Now
Defiant: With a sidearm strapped to his side, Anthony Herrea stands along a protest area while rancher Cliven Bundy’s son, Ammon Bundy grimaces as he shows taser marks on his chest
On his side: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), pictured last week, has risen to Bundy’s side and called the BLM’s efforts ‘overreaching’
Taking a stand: Ammon Bundy (back C), son of rancher Cliven Bundy, talks Friday to protesters at the property
The BLM had earlier been said to be planning to sell the cattle it has rounded up and had offered to share the profits with Bundy.
As the protest became heated earlier this week, a Republican U.S. Senator and Nevada’s governor spoke out in favor of a rancher fighting efforts by federal agents to seize both his land and his cattle.
Sen Dean Heller, of Nevada, said he told U.S. Bureau of Land Management head Neil Kornze that law-abiding Nevadans such as rancher Cliven Bundy shouldn’t be penalized by an ‘overreaching’ agency.
Governor Buran Sandoval, also a Republican, previously spoke out against the actions, saying they are leading to an ‘atmosphere of intimidation.’
The round-up: Bureau of Land Management vehicles are seen Friday near a corral with cattle outside Bunkerville, Nevada
JOining the cause: Steven Kelly (R) talks on a phone as he stands by a protest signs he posted on his house as his soon Sean Kelly (L), looks on west of Mesquite, Nevada
In Arizona, a congressman said he and several state Republican lawmakers considered traveling to Bunkerville to protest what they perceive as government heavy-handedness.
Arizona state representative Bob Thorpe, of Flagstaff, said he and state legislators weren’t arguing whether Bundy broke laws or violated grazing agreements.
Thorpe said the Arizona lawmakers were upset the BLM initially restricted protesters to so-called free speech zones.
Senator Heller and Governor Sandoval have also said they were upset with the way the BLM was conducting the roundup.
The remarks came as video emerged of Ammon Bundy, the son of Cliven Bundy, being repeatedly shot with a Taser and threatened by police
The confrontation took place Wednesday and was caught on video by Bundy supporters and relatives who got into an aggressive – and at times violent – face-off with the officers.
Dug in: Bottles of water and supplies sit ready to be used at a protest area on Friday
Violent: An officer is seen firing a taser at Ammon Bundy as an aggressive police
dog goes after him
Cliven Bundy supporters tased in violent standoff with feds
The increasing number of people arriving at the camp in support of the rancher came one day after other officials spoke out in favor of the embattled rancher.
‘Watching that video last night created a visceral reaction in me,’ Arizona state Representative Kelly Townsend told the Las Vegas Review Journal
‘It sounds dramatic, but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point.’
Closer to home, Nevada state assemblywoman Michele Fiore has made two trips to meet with the protesters in Bunkerville after seeing the ‘horrifying’ footage.’
‘I’m highly offended by the feds coming in as aggressively as they have,’ she told the paper.
Bloodied: Krissy Thornton, right, looks at blood from a taser wound on Ammon Bundy
Outrage over the video prompted a change in the federal agents’ orders, according to a BLM spokesperson.
‘We are allowing people to congregate on public land as long as they don’t inhibit the operation,’ Amy Lueders saidThursday.
‘It sounds dramatic, but it reminded me of Tiananmen Square. I don’t recognize my country at this point.’
-Arizona state Representative Kelly Townsend
The week-long standoff started when federal agents swooped in Tuesday after Cliven Bundy, the last remaining rancher in southern Nevada, refused to remove his herd of 900 cows from land he claims has been in his family since 1870.
The heavily-armed federal agents, equipped with eight helicopters and backed-up by snipers, surrounded the Bundy ranch after the BLM attained a federal court order to confiscate the family’s herd.
A Facebook post made by Bundy supporters told protesters to bring cameras and ‘film everything’ but ‘any rifles people may have with them need to stay in the vehicles’.
Sandoval, who criticized the tactics used by the BLM agents earlier this week, has urged everyone to show restraint.
‘Although tensions remain high, escalation of current events could have negative, long lasting consequences that can be avoided,’ he said Thursday.
The cattle grab came after Bundy family supporters began comparing the showdown to a war.
Fighting words: Bundy, seen at right in the plaid shirt, is heard yelling at the agents to get off of his family’s land
Recovery: Ammon backs away towards the group of supporters behind him as he recoils after the taser shot
Margaret Houston, Cliven Bundy’s sister and a cancer survivor, told those gathered Wednesday at a town hall meeting that the scene ‘was like a war zone. I felt like I was not in the United States.
‘All of a sudden I get hit from the back, it was like a football tackle,’ she said. ‘They took me and just threw me down to the ground.’
She was not hurt in the incident, but said she was ‘shocked that somebody would actually do this.
Officials blamed a protester kicking a K-9 unit for the aggression. Local leaders of the protests have warned supporters of the Bundys not to wear camouflage and to keep any weapons they bring in their vehicles to try to stem further clashes.
Opening the gates: Federal officers are seen making way for a convoy of cattle on Thursday
Speaking out: Margaret Houston, Cliven Bundy’s sister, told how she was tackled by officers when she was protesting (seen here at a Wednesday town hall meeting)
Cliven Bundy told InfoWars
he and his family ‘gathered about 30 head’ of cattle.
‘We did have a small confrontation with them, but they didn’t have the forces to do a whole lot,’ he said.
‘They couldn’t mobilize fast enough and we were able to gather those cattle and get them to the ranch.’
No passage: Federal law enforcement officers block a road into the land Bundy claims is his
Defiance: Cliven Bundy, (right), and friend, Clance Cox, stand at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville Nevada on Saturday
during the escalation of their dispute with the Federal Government
Multiple people have been detained while protesting the removal of the cattle, it is not clear if any charges have been pressed against them.
A handful of detentions were made at nearby Overton Marina, where cattle moved off the land are being held by BLM agents, according to 8 News Now
Clashes erupted soon after the armed agents began trying to impose their will on the protesters.
The incidents did not deter the family from defiantly pressing on.
‘These are heavily armed individuals with fully automatic weapons,’ Ammon Bundy told the station.
Another protester, from Utah, accused the BLM agents of ‘Throwing women to the ground, tasing them [and] sticking K-9 dogs on them.’
Reports of violence are what drew the militias in.
They won’t go: Charlie Brown holds up a sign Thursday from the Bureau of Land Management’s ‘first amendment area’ during a protest of the Bureau of Land Management’s roundup of cattle near Bunkerville
Help: Supporters prepare to rally for Cliven Bundy at the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville Nevada on Monday
People power: People help erect a pole to hang a banner during a rally in support of Cliven Bundy near Bunkerville Nevada on Monday
Eight helicopters were circling the land Thursday, and federal officials have seized about 350 of Bundy’s 908 cattle, according to various reports.
It is estimated that impounding them will cost upwards of $3million. Bundy estimates his unpaid fines total about $300,000.
The BLM released a statement on its website earlier this week, saying, ‘cattle have been in trespass on public lands in Southern Nevada for more than two decades.
‘This is unfair to the thousands of other ranchers who graze livestock in compliance with federal laws and regulations throughout the west.
‘The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the National Park Service (NPS) have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially.’
Pressure and surveillance: A helicopter takes off from a staging area of Bureau of Land Management vehicles and other government vehicles off of Riverside Road near Bunkerville, Nevada over the weekend
Property: Cattle belonging to Cliven Bundy are rounded up with a helicopter near Bunkerville Nevada on Monday, April 7, 2014. The Bureau of Land Management has begun to round up what they call ‘trespass cattle’ that rancher Cliven Bundy has been grazing in the Gold Butte area 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas
Constitutional: Contractors for the Bureau of Land Management round up cattle belonging to Cliven Bundy with a helicopter