The Face of Federal Over-reach in America
By Scott Michael Rohter, October 2016 – Updated April 2017
Dateline: Portland, Oregon – October 4, 2016
More than anyone else in America, Ammon and Ryan Bundy are leading the fight to change the way that Congress administers public land. These two dedicated individuals are sacrificing their lives to keep this subject in front of the Nation’s attention for so long. Public land use reform has now become a part of the Republican Party platform mainly because of what they have done.
Their goal is to get Congress to hold hearings on this important subject and ultimately to turn over as much federally administered land as possible to State and local control where it can be better managed. This would also go a long way to providing the stable source of funding that many counties in Western States need so they don’t have to keep going before Congress every year to ask for more money to fund local government services like schools, police, and fire protection.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy have already spent over fifteen months of their lives behind bars and the last month has been spent in solitary confinement for their role in bringing this subject to the Nation’s attention. This is in spite of the fact that an Oregon jury has found them NOT GUILTY of all charges including those of conspiracy to impede federal officials, as well as carrying personal firearms onto a federal facility. That verdict came as a total surprise to federal prosecutors who have spent millions of dollars over the last several years trying to obtain some kind of a conviction against the Bundy Family but have only wound up with mud on their faces. However if federal prosecutors get their way in a Nevada courtroom the Bundys will spend a lot more than just fifteen months behind bars. This however assumes that they will be convicted in a second trial which will be held in Las Vegas sometime later this year. With a hung jury in the first trial in Nevada the date of the second trial will be postponed even further.. The jurors who listen to all of the evidence (even though much of it is not admitted) do not believe that the Bundy family and their supporters are the danger to the whole country that the government says they are. This trial in Nevada unlike the one in Oregon stems from the standoff with the BLM that occurred at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville in 2014 when the BLM impounded their cattle.
It is a gross mischaracterization to portray the Bundy’s as participants in a conspiracy. It is an even greater miscarriage of justice for federal prosecutors to accuse them of a conspiracy. It would be the ultimate miscarriage of justice if any jury in America ever finds them guilty of such a conspiracy. If the Bundys or any of the other defendants who are accused of conspiracy have to spend another day in jail it is a national disgrace. It is just as wrong to continue to hold them without bail as it was to sentence Dwight and Stephen Hammond to spend five years in jail under The Anti Terrorist and Effective Death Penalty Act for setting a grass fire on their land to control weeds. It was a simple accident that the fire burned 130 acres of grass on land they leased from the BLM, but it did not destroy a single improvement to the land or result in the loss of anything of any value. It was not arson, and it certainly wasn’t an act of terrorism.
The law can be an ass sometimes. Most of us know that. In fact the law can be an ass a lot of times, but the jury in Oregon in the Occupation Trial of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge had the final power to acquit these good men and they did. Later this year another jury in the State of Nevada will be entrusted with the same power to either convict or acquit these fine men and send them home to their families.
At his trial in Oregon Ammon Bundy took the witness stand to testify in his own behalf. It was not easy to watch him as he broke down several times telling the story of how he and his family have been harassed and hounded over the years by the Bureau of Land Management and how they are being unfairly prosecuted by the Federal government for simply standing up for their property rights.
A Synopsis of Ammon Bundy’s testimony in Oregon from October 4th, 2016
“Every man in my family is behind bars” (for defending our property rights)… Law enforcement gang beat my little brother. They threw my aunt Margaret to the ground… I was tazed three times… They impounded and killed our cattle… “ (He did not mention the fact that his brother Ryan was beaten by prison guards at the Multnomah County Detention Center and placed in solitary confinement for a month until trial because he refused to allow the government to remove a bullet which is still in his shoulder.)
“We have rights to use the land we graze our cattle on… These rights belong to us. I grew up on the Bundy Ranch in Nevada in the same house that my father grew up in… My grandfather built that house with his own two hands.. We have lived on that land for five generations… 138 years. The Bundys have worked that land and run our cattle on that land. We have water rights. We have grazing rights, and those rights cannot just be taken away from us. We own those rights.” Without those rights we cannot succeed as ranchers. We can’t even survive.
When I first heard about the problems that the Hammonds were having with the BLM in Oregon my first instinct was to ignore it.. My plate was full. I did not want to help them, but my father told me that the same thing was happening to the Hammond family that had happened to us. I still did not want to help them, but one night I couldn’t sleep. I felt it in my spirit that I couldn’t ignore them anymore so I began to read about them. The more I learned about the Hammonds and the problems they were having in Oregon the more I became convinced that I couldn’t keep ignoring what was going on in Oregon so I decided to visit them. “My father is a good father. He taught me to care for others who need help. Its part of my job as a Christian.
I drove to the Hammond Ranch in Oregon and I met Stephen. Later I met with Susie and Dwight. They are good people… the salt of the earth, but they seemed discouraged and about ready to give up. They were convinced that they could not win against the power of the federal government. Several weeks later they called me and told me that their attorney had received warnings purporting to be from the Federal government that if they didn’t break off their communications with me… that extreme pain would come to their family. They told me that they could not talk to me anymore. That’s when I realized this kind of abuse by the Federal government had gone on long enough. I decided that something had to be done. What happened to our family in Nevada was now happening to the Hammond family in Oregon and it had to stop…