News / USA

    Lack of Prosecution in US West Land Disputes Emboldens Protesters, Some Say

    Ryan Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Jan. 8, 2016.
    Ryan Bundy, one of the sons of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, walks through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Ore., Jan. 8, 2016.

    As the armed occupation of U.S. federal buildings in rural Oregon drags on, some blame the U.S. government for failing to arrest anti-government lawbreakers in the western United States after the last big standoff in 2014.

    Some former federal officials and lawmakers say they believe anti-government lawbreakers have been emboldened by the Justice Department's failure to prosecute rancher Cliven Bundy, whose 2014 standoff with the government over Nevada grazing rights ended with federal agents backing down in the face of about 1,000 armed militiamen.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been building a case against participants in that dispute, according to federal and local officials. But prosecutors have yet to bring charges, and no arrests of Bundy, his family or others have been made.

    Bundy's sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, are now leading a small group of armed protesters in rural Oregon who seized a federal wildlife center Saturday to try to win greater local control over federal land. Cliven Bundy is advising his sons by telephone from Nevada, according to Reuters reporters on the scene.

    "If people feel like there's no repercussions for their actions, especially if they're acting illegally, it does embolden them," said Bob Abbey, who led the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from 2009 to 2012. "Two years should be sufficient time for bringing people to justice."

    Rallying point

    Cliven Bundy's long-running dispute with the BLM over grazing fees turned into a rallying point for the far right in 2014, when hundreds of heavily armed paramilitary activists flocked to his Nevada ranch to prevent federal agents from seizing his cattle. Bundy's sons were also photographed participating in the dispute.

    Bundy's perceived victory energized a far-right citizens militia movement that has waxed and waned in the United States over several decades. The Department of Homeland Security predicted in an intelligence report that it would inspire other acts of violence.

    The BLM said it was still pursuing the Bundy case through the legal system. "Our primary goal remains to resolve this matter safely and according to the rule of the law," spokesman Tom Gorey said. The FBI, the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney's office in Nevada declined to comment.

    Former federal officials say the Justice Department, on the whole, is quick to handle criminal cases involving public lands. But many BLM agents have expressed frustration that the government has not yet brought any charges related to the 2014 standoff, said Ed Shepard, a former BLM Oregon state director who stays in touch with current employees at the agency.

    "It's a violation of law and they should be held accountable for it," said Shepard, who as president of the Public Lands Foundation represents retired BLM workers.

    Waco siege

    In recent years, federal officials have taken a cautious approach when dealing with armed extremists to avoid a repeat of the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, that left more than 80 people dead.

    The hands-off strategy averts bloodshed but has enabled participants in the 2014 standoff to scatter across the country.

    Two people involved in the standoff went on to kill two police officers and one civilian in Las Vegas in June 2014, less than two months after the Nevada standoff at the Bundy ranch ended. Others have discussed plans to seize land and attack federal convoys and helicopters, according to the Homeland Security report, which was released in July of that year.

    One man involved in the standoff, Washington state resident Schuyler Barbeau, was arrested in a separate incident in December on charges of attempting to sell an unregistered firearm. He told an informant that it was his duty to "lynch" public servants he deemed to be unworthy, according to the charges.

    Armed members of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group involved in the standoff, gathered at mines in Montana and Oregon last year at the request of owners who said they worried the government was going to seize their properties. Both disputes are pending in court.

    Threats to employees

    The April 2014 standoff also led to an increase in threats and security risks for the federal employees who police rangeland, deter trespassers and round up stray livestock on public land in the western United States, former officials say.

    In the weeks after federal agents backed down, two BLM rangers were menaced at gunpoint on a Utah highway, said Juan Palma, the agency's state director at the time.

    Archaeologists, biologists and others who often work alone far out in the wilderness were required to travel in pairs for safety, and the agency carefully tracked who was in and out of the office, said Palma, now retired.

    "Some of our employees didn't feel comfortable wearing the uniform to be identified in a restaurant," he said.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora