A flurry of dramatic property and civil rights-related trials is taking place across the western U.S. in federal courts, in which defendants, including independent media representatives, are charged with up to 17 crimes each, from trespass to terrorism.
All the accused had confronted or ignored law-enforcement officers in group protests in either 2014’s Bunkerville, Nevada, confrontation or 2016’s similar standoff in Harney County, Oregon. Both showdowns were responses to perceived overreach of federal bureaucracies – chiefly the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Since 1994, the Bundy family of Bunkerville, Nevada, had grappled with authorities over grazing rights in contested areas near their land. On April 5, 2014, hostilities erupted into open conflict resembling a range war. Armed Bureau of Land Management employees and rangers removed and shot the family’s cattle, supposedly as a way of recouping fees the federal government claimed rancher Cliven Bundy owed. Masses of protesters, some armed, stood in open confrontation with federal and local law enforcement for a week, until the BLM finally backed down and left.