Anti-government conservatives and gun rights activists are applauding what they deem a tide-turning win at the Bundy ranch standoff that went down earlier this month in Nevada.
Last week, about 1,000 armed militia men flocked to defend the ranch against a dozen agents from the Federal Bureau of Land Management. The standoff was the culmination of a nearly 20-year dispute in which the BLM argued that rancher Cliven Bundy's cattle had illegally grazed on federal lands. Bundy reportedly always refused to pay grazing fees because he felt the government had no jurisdiction over the land.
Amid the threat of gunfire, the BLM ultimately stood down, opting to pursue legal and administrative avenues to resolve the dispute. But the ordeal has inspired other grassroots movements to fight back against what they see as similar injustices.
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"The question is whether we're going to see sustained flame-up now," Catherine Stock, a history professor at Connecticut College who specializes in rural militias, told Reuters.
"We could see more of that if they actually think that the federal government is going to stand down. It's not the groups, it's not their concerns, it's not their anger; all of that is old. But the federal government backing down? I was like, 'Wow! Seriously?'"
Stock cited the increase of right-wing media outlets and the election of conservative Republicans as reasons for the groups' right-leaning shift, which has brought a renewed legitimacy to once-dismissed factions.
Republican Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore was one of those politicians. She joined the Bundy ranch protesters daily and said their fight was "justified."
"This is historic," Fiore said. "This is the first time we went arm to arm with the federal government."
The "Battle of Bunkerville" ended April 12 without any shots being fired, but the tension worried some who feel it could set a dangerous precedent.
"Do laws no longer apply when the radical right no longer agrees?" Ryan Lenz, a writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center, asked in an interview with Reuters.
The BLM took over the management of the land where Bundy's cattle graze in 1993, and ordered the rancher to shrink the number of cattle to help preserve the desert tortoise's habitat, which had previously been classified as "threatened." Bundy refused and hasn't paid grazing fees that have now reached more than $1 million, according to Reuters.
In the week since the standoff, Bundy's supporters have been searching for more oppressed citizens to defend with the threat of violence, with radio host Alex Jones, who runs the right-wing website Infowars, offering support.
"Americans showed up with guns and said, 'No, you're not," before confronting the armed BLM agents, Jones told Reuters. "And they said, 'Shoot us.' And they did not. That's epic. And it's going to happen more."
Not every conservative offered blind support for the Bundy supporters. Glenn Beck, for one, did not support the protesters
who he felt were provoking an armed confrontation. He took a lot of heat in the media for advocating for a peaceful protest.
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