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After Nevada ranch stand-off, emboldened militias ask: where next?

An armed man stands watch as protesters gather by the Bureau of Land Management's base camp near Bunkerville, Nevada

After Nevada ranch stand-off, emboldened militias ask: where next?
BY JONATHAN ALLEN
Thu Apr 17, 2014 5:37pm EDT

(Reuters) – Flat on his belly in a sniper position, wearing a baseball cap and a flak jacket, a protester aimed his semi-automatic rifle from the edge of an overpass and waited as a crowd below stood its ground against U.S. federal agents in the Nevada desert.

He was part of a 1,000-strong coalition of armed militia-men, cowboys on horseback, gun rights activists and others who rallied to Cliven Bundy’s Bunkerville ranch, about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, in a stand-off with about a dozen agents from the federal Bureau of Land Management.

The rangers had rounded up hundreds of Bundy’s cattle, which had been grazing illegally on federal lands for two decades. Bundy had refused to pay grazing fees, saying he did not recognize the government’s authority over the land, a view that attracted vocal support from some right-wing groups.

Citing public safety, the BLM retreated, suspending its operation and even handing back cattle it had already seized.

No shots were fired during the stand-off, which Bundy’s triumphant supporters swiftly dubbed the “Battle of Bunkerville,” but the government’s decision to withdraw in the face of armed resistance has alarmed some who worry that it has set a dangerous precedent and emboldened militia groups.

“Do laws no longer apply when the radical right no longer agrees?” said Ryan Lenz, a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors militia group activity.

Armed Americans using the threat of a gunfight to force federal officers to back down is virtually unparalleled in the modern era, militia experts said. But the BLM, which says it is now pursuing legal and administrative options to resolve the dispute, has won praise for stepping back and avoiding violence.

Energized by their success, Bundy’s supporters are already talking about where else they can exercise armed defiance. They include groups deeply suspicious of what they see as a bloated, over-reaching government they fear wants to restrict their constitutional right to bear arms.

https://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/17/us-usa-ranchers-nevada-militia-insight-idUSBREA3G26620140417?feedType=RSS&feedName=domesticNews

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