Bloodshed was averted and a bunch of freedom-loving, gut-hanging-over-the-brass-belt-buckle, self-styled militia men declared victory Monday in a major armed standoff with federal and local officials over one bubba's right to graze his cattle on taxpayer land in Nevada.
The bizarre Woodstock for amateur minutemen and pistol-packin' cowpokes almost ended in a shootout this weekend after the Oathkeepers—a bunch of militant patriots so dedicated to America that they stand ready to destroy this country in order to save it—gathered in support of an irascible old straw-hatted rancher named Cliven Bundy, and in search of the new civil war they've long been praying for.
For more than 20 years, Bundy reportedly has grazed his thousands of cattle on federal lands maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, disregarding rules set up for endangered species on the land and refusing to pay grazing fees. Bundy maintains that the land, which has been in his family since the 1880s, is sovereign and unbound by gol'durn federal regulations. He owes millions in grazing fees and court fines.
But when BLM officials came out with rangers to seize Bundy's cattle over the weekend, his dispute with the gub'mint became a rallying cry for angry white dudes in search of the next Ruby Ridge or Waco to rally 'round—angry white dudes like this guy in a flannel shirt and trucker cap who came all the way from Idaho not to demonstrate, but to lay down a sniper's position on municipal authorities from a highway overpass.
The tensest part of the standoff began Saturday, with Bundy and his ralliers peppering the otherwise incredibly patient-looking local sheriff with batshit demands, a tour de force performance recorded in the video above.
"Disarm the Park Service," Bundy began, to shouts and hollers:
Take your county equipment and tear down [the walls blocking grazing lands] this morning. You disarm those Park Service people. You take a pickup and all of those arms…we want all of those arms put in that compound today! We want those arms delivered right here under these flags in one hour!…
If they're not done, then we'll decide what we're gonna do from this point on!
What followed was a bunch of twits playing cavalry on horseback, displaying their hatred for federal oppression by carrying the flags of the four armed service branches; twits wearing tactical camouflage and guarding Bundy in formation; and twits on foot in the desert, blocking I-15 with their bodies and cars, wielding Gadsden flags and American flags and OBAMA NO MORE WACOS signs.
This was as Bundy apparently intended. After his one-hour deadline passed, he told the crowd to block the interstate and display its mettle beneath an overpass where his cows were penned. "We're gonna go and take our land back and declare freedom and liberty here in this land," he said. "Is God gonna be with us?"
Around 7:30 in the video above—just after a loose-mouthed women in a DON'T TREAD ON ME T-shirt explains why it's fine with her that some militia-types brought their children to participate in the confrontation with law enforcement—you can see Inner America's id brought to the brink of clash: a screaming, inchoate mass of men with guns and horses and misty memories of watching The Postman on TNT, converging on a single calm, collected police officer who looks like a special forces soldier emerging from the Hindu Kush with the Northern Alliance.
"[N]either side said they anticipated protesters to march toward the corral," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. But freedom is messy, and often violently provocative and stupid.
Fortunately, law enforcement officials weren't. They wisely gave up and let the goddamn cattle graze on the goddamn land, rather than starting a massacre, which is what it would have been, because idiots who can't spell (Bundy's son wore a T-shirt that read "WE SUPPORT THE BUNDY'S") probably can't lay down suppressive fire and maneuver with discipline, either:
Eventually, Chief Deputy Tom Roberts of the Las Vegas Metro Police met with Ammon Bundy at the barricade, where Roberts communicated to Bundy that the BLM had agreed to release the cattle and to immediately vacate the area in order to avoid violence.
Several hours later, approximately 500 cattle were released to the Bundy family. Ammon Bundy said the BLM has agreed to allow his family to continue grazing in the disputed area. BLM officials could not be reached for comment at the time of this report, and it is unclear whether sanctions or criminal charges will be filed against members of the Bundy family or the other protesters.
And so it was over, much as it began. Who won? The protesters obviously believe they struck a blow for freedom and justice and old farts who want to let their cows shit wherever they please. It's probably a victory for law enforcement, too, who managed the situation without Alex Jones taking a potshot at them and without using deadly force in return.
But mostly it's a victory for those of you who are reading this, without moving your lips, someplace where wi-fi runs fast and strong: Maybe, just maybe, these moronic armed brutes will be satisfied with the acres of nothing they just fought over in Nevada, and we on the civilized, productive edges of this thing called America—which they love but little understand—will never have to meet them, or duck out of the way of their terrible aim.