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Federal Retreat in Nevada ‘Range War’ Gives Green Light to Extremists

The antigovernment “Patriots” and heavily armed militia members backing Cliven Bundy in his “range war” with the Bureau of Land Management were thrilled by the apparent confusion and retreat by federal agents at the scene of the roundup. At least momentarily, they smell victory.

The blog “Bearing Arms” summed up the sentiment on the far right: "It is now a virtual certainty that Obamite acts of tyranny will be resisted, by hundreds, even thousands, and if necessary, by force."

Many of the leading “Patriot” and antigovernment conspiracist figures were ecstatic over the “victory,” which they said proves the legitimacy of their view that the federal government is a fraudulent entity with no legitimate power.

Cliven Bundy addresses supporters in Bunkerville, Nev., on April 12, 2014. Following his speech that day, militia and ranchers engaged in an armed standoff with agents from the Bureau of Land Management.

Cliven Bundy with militia supporters

Leading the parade was noted militia figure Mike Vanderboegh, who wrote that the “feds were routed”:

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the victory won in the desert today. While the behind-the-scenes details are not clear yet, it is obvious that something unprecedented in the war on the west that has been waged by the imperial federal government has, against all odds, happened. The feds were routed -- routed. There is no other word that applies. Courage is contagious, defiance is contagious, victory is contagious. Yet the war is not over. The empire, you may be assured, WILL strike back. This will be the subject of angry words at an Obama cabinet meeting on Monday. Someone in federal government will want blood, rest assured. The feds, having lost the Mandate of Heaven and demonstrated their impotence in this case, will not want to repeat it lest the peasants get the right idea -- that they are not as omnipotent as they claim to be.

Vanderboegh, who spoke by phone with Cliven Bundy’s son, saw the event – as did most of his far-right brethren – as truly historic:

I congratulated Ammon and told him that this was perhaps a pivotal moment in American history. He also agreed with me that it is impossible not to see the hand of God in all of this. I told him that it was my opinion that the empire would surely strike back, but that they would likely come at the Bundys and their supporters sideways next time. Still, it was a great victory, a pivotal moment, in the relationship between the federal government and the American people. Nothing will be quite the same after this, mostly because it has demonstrated to those whom the government would victimize that they only require someone with the guts to stand up to leviathan -- and the armed friends to back them up in the argument.

That was the sentiment at Alex Jones’ InfoWars site, where the headline proclaimed: “Historic! Feds Forced to Surrender to American Citizens”. The site also featured an article from Ron Paul himself who warned that federal agents might be planning a lethal raid against that Bundys as retaliation.

In the meantime, Sheriff Richard Mack – who appeared at the scene and helped craft a strategy to women as human shields – also weighed in at InfoWars and similarly warned against a coming raid.

On his daily show at InfoWars, Alex Jones himself warned that there would be many more such incidents.

It’s a very special time to be alive. And the victory that you saw at that event? There’s going to be more of that as people push back, as they see victory. And the feds, if they miscalculate, and start shooting people, at another Lexington or Concord, are going to set a revolution off in our favor.

At the slightly more mainstream, financial columnist John Ransom declared that the “War on Federal Bureaucrats Opens at the Bundy Ranch.”


Meanwhile, the Oath Keepers – the conspiracist “Patriot” group that linked up with Mack and his “constitutional sheriffs” at the standoff site to provide the protesters much of their manpower over the weekend – has not only vowed to keep up its presence at Bundy’s ranch but has sent out a national call to make their way to Nevada over the next week.

Oath Keepers president Stewart Rhodes noted that they were “concerned that the domestic enemies of the Constitution that infest the federal government might try to take advantage of folks going home, and attempt to make a move on the Bundy family.” So to prevent any raid, they were “calling on all Oath Keepers who can possibly get here to come to the Bundy Ranch to serve as volunteers on an ongoing, rotating watch.”

“I am urging each and every Oath Keepers member who can, to get here and spend a bit of time to ensure that the Bundys are not alone,” Rhodes added. “We need boots on the ground. We want you here, standing watch, which is appropriate for us Oath Keepers since our motto is ‘Not on Our Watch’."

Rhodes also appeared on an Internet radio program for the NorthWest Liberty News in which he said that a number of leading far-right figures – including Chuck Baldwin, whose Montana-based Liberty Fellowship is a hotbed of “Patriot” radicalism – were making their way to the scene in Nevada this week, along with a number of far-right legislators who were lending their names to the cause, including Rep. Matt Shea of Spokane, Wash.

Rhodes called for his fellow Oath Keepers to gird their loins and head for Nevada:

This is an ongoing fight, so I also encourage you to get ready, prepare yourselves, get geared up and get your logistics secured away, and be here next week. Because I think what’s going to happen is – I haven’t got a crystal ball, but my suspicion is they’re going to regroup and then come back even more. They’re going to double down, and so we need to be ready to do the same thing. So we’ll need a lot more folks here.

In Nevada, local opinion makers are decidedly less enthusiastic. At the conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal, columnist Steve Sebelius noted that the court orders and numerous rulings requiring the federal government to remove Bundy’s cows remained intact:

About the only thing that’s different is that a bunch of armed would-be insurrectionists have gotten the message that if they show up with tough talk and loaded long guns, there’s a good chance the government will back down. And that’s not a very good message to send.

However, as Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress observes, the story is far from over. Many of these activists, in fact, could find themselves behind bars soon for having broken various laws, including the threatening behavior that was directed at federal agents, as well having crossed state lines with various weapons and wielded them in Nevada “in furtherance of a civil disorder” – also a federal crime.

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