A citizen submits a letter to the Idaho Statesman’s editor suggesting that now that Cliven Bundy is behind bars, his assets should be seized to repay his outstanding debt related to the non-payment of grazing fees. (The editorial submission can be found here.)
What has always baffled me is why the Federal Government didn’t take a similar course of action to begin with. It is well documented that they paid a Utah contractor in either 2012 (for the canceled roundup) or in 2014 almost $900K. Given that they claim such an egregious level of negligence from Bundy regarding the condition of the herd, it doesn’t seem to me that the operation ever had a chance of achieving financial solvency. The figures I saw for the value of the herd was somewhere around $1M. Basically the Government hired a contractor for $1M to round up $1M in cattle to satisfy a $1M debt. That doesn’t even factor in the logistics involved in aerial surveillance of the herd and all of the personnel who showed up to enforce the roundup; I doubt they volunteered their time or used vacation to offset their wage losses. Prices were high in 2014 and the cattle would have fetched top dollar (assuming people were willing to buy rustled cattle); but fetching more than $2M… doesn’t seem plausible.
Continuing with the fiscally doomed plan, they are captured on camera using Tasers and canines on protesters, including the incident where the woman was thrown to the ground. Stumbling along, they set up cordoned-off “First Amendment Zones” apparently thinking that people would just saunter on over and express their displeasure from there. Actively engaged in a heavy-handed, militaristic show of force… they become dumbfounded and shocked when people from all over the West show up armed to the teeth; an action which, in and of itself, is not unlawful.
I saw the “First Amendment Zone” on Friday morning, 11 April 2014 and made preparations to drive through the night to go down there and kick down those signs. I didn’t go, but some who did found themselves the next day standing on a bridge where agents looking like they just rolled out of a deployment from Afghanistan say over a loudspeaker that the people under I-15 were in danger of being subjected to gas or lethal force if they did not disperse. Take a second to soak that in. A group of men, women, and minor children… walking toward an area where Bundy’s cattle were corralled, a lot of them hands up, are told that they could be shot and killed for protesting.
That is the whole context for the images that the media have run wild with. Did individuals on and around the bridge point weapons at Federal Agents? Yes. The next question should be, “Why?”.
Coming full circle… these agencies have broad powers to obtain remuneration for debts owed to the government. They can lien real property, seize cash from bank accounts, withhold tax returns, deny or garnish entitlement benefits, dissolve corporate entities, and the list goes on. Rather than take one or more of those approaches, they show up with helicopters and guns, react violently to protestors, and then announce that they will just kill them if they come any closer to the corral. This is lawlessness. Pointing weapons at protesters and announcing that you will shoot them is lawlessness. This is why what happened on the bridge transpired the way it did. The images of people on the bridge with weapons were images of people reasonably in fear for their lives and the lives of those under the overpass. They truly believed that a loud smack or a backfiring vehicle could have caused those people to be subjected to deadly force.
Twenty people have been rounded up in connection with the events of that situation. They are buried under an avalanche of excessive litigation and yet the individuals who executed a dangerous, foolhardy, bone-headed plan that endangered the lives of employee and civilian alike, all with no possible outcome of financial solvency, continue their careers with tacit impunity.
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