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How The West Was Issued Warrants; Bundys, Other Armed Militia Face Trial

Rancher Cliven Bundy holds his 5-month-old grandson Roper Cox in Bunkerville, Nev. Bundy hosted an event in April 2015 to mark one year since the Bureau of Land Management's failed attempt to collect his cattle.
John Locher/AP

Rancher Cliven Bundy holds his 5-month-old grandson Roper Cox in Bunkerville, Nev. Bundy hosted an event in April 2015 to mark one year since the Bureau of Land Management's failed attempt to collect his cattle.

Trials began last week for participants of the 2014 standoff between law enforcement officials and armed militia members at the Bundy ranch in Bunkerville, Nev. 

Members of the embattled family face charges from the 2014 standoff, as well as the takeover of a wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. Cliven, the patriarch, and his two sons, Ryan and Ammon, will take the stand to defend what they think is their constitutional right to not pay grazing fees on federally managed land.  

Sam Levin, a writer for the Guardian who has covered the Bundys in Bunkerville and Oregon, recently wrote about the ethos of the Bundys, and how it evolved into a lands-rights crusade that has empowered a battle for the American West.

"I think the Bundy story definitely tells a larger story about the American West, which is why the Guardian U.S. in general is interested in following these cases,” he said.

Levin told KNPR's State of Nevada that he believes it is important for people to understand why the Bundys have taken up this fight and why so many people agree with them.  

“Obviously, they’ve really struck a chord with certain communities in the rural west who have long standing frustrations with the government and they’ve really galvanized a number of different movements,” he said.

Levin also said that the experts he spoke said that social media helped build interest and support for Cliven Bundy's standoff with the BLM in 2014.

“People saw it as an in person battle they could participate in,” he said.

But now that social media footprint will likely be used against the Bundy's in court. 

“The government believes it has a very strong case backed up by social media evidence,” Levin said.

He said the government believes it has a clear case that the Bundys had planned to impede the government from removing Cliven Bundy's cattle and selling them to pay for outstanding grazing fees. 

For their part, the Bundy family and the other people on trial are expected to use a number of different arguments related to the Constitution and federal land use issues.

If they are found guilty and are sentenced, Levin said it will be felt by the movement they've helped focus and their families. 

"If they are sentenced to a long period in prison, it could have a really serious effect on the movement they’ve galvanized; however, I think a lot of people also kind of see them as martyrs for sure,” he said. 



Sam Levin, writer, The Guardian 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.