Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led a standoff against the federal government in 2014 and who cheered the more recent Oregon standoff led by his sons, was arrested late Wednesday at the Portland airport.
On Thursday, the feds also arrested the last holdout of the five-week standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon, officially bringing an end to the siege that began as a protest against the double-jeopardy jailing of two ranchers on charges of arson.
For people who believe the ranchers are just nutcases who should have been shot by the federal government, as Montel Williams suggested, it was the end to a long, confusing showdown in which armed individuals threatened the power of the federal government.
To those who believe in individual rights and that the government’s power proceeds from the people, not vice versa, it was a bittersweet ending to a confrontation that pitted independent ranchers against a federal government grown out of control, far beyond the authority granted to it by the Constitution.
Authorities say Finicum twice reached into his jacket as if he were reaching for a gun when police shot him. Supporters of Finicum have suggested that he was reacting to being shot twice in his side by agents who opened fire while he was surrendering.
On Wednesday in Portland, federal authorities picked up Cliven Bunday as he got off a plane and arrested him for conspiracy to interfere with a federal officer and weapons charges, all related to his 2014 confrontation that began when federal officials tried to remove his cattle from disputed federal land.
On Thursday, officials arrested David Fry at about 11 a.m. without incident. He was the last of the holdouts after the killing of Finicum. Before he was hauled away in steel bracelets, agents arrested Sandy Anderson, 48, of Idaho; her husband, Sean Anderson, 47; and Jeff Banta, 46, of Elko, Nev.
Harney County Sheriff David Ward, a critic of the occupation, was pleased by the arrests. “I’m proud of this community,” he said. “I’m proud of my friends and neighbors. … I love this country. And a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
There you have the sentiment of the pro-government statist faction. Some of us can’t help but marvel at such a statement when the division that led to both standoffs was generated by the government which has no business taking away ranch lands in the first place.
Another question about the whole situation has to do with the timing of the various arrests.
It’s apparent that the feds didn’t want to risk a bloody confrontation that might devolve into a Waco-style massacre.
Instead, federal agents bided their time, stayed low-profile and carefully planned the arrests of leaders of the Oregon standoff on a lonely stretch of road. With the possible exception of Finicum’s death, everything went smoothly.
Similarly with the arrest of Cliven Bundy. Clearly, federal agents were waiting for a moment when he would be vulnerable and away from his ranch, his base of support.
Maybe you think it was a brilliant bit of law enforcement the way the Oregon standoff ended.
Or maybe it just means that, once again, the government has shown it has no qualms about crushing any individuals who dare stand up to it.