Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and his followers were not legally protesting when they took part in a 2014 armed standoff that galvanized militia groups challenging U.S. government authority in the America West, prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Bundy and three co-defendants, including two of his sons, are accused of conspiring to use threats of force to prevent a court-ordered impoundment of Bundy’s cattle, which the government said had trespassed on federal land after he refused for 20 years to pay his grazing fees and assessments.
Acting U.S. Attorney for Nevada, Steve Myhre, said in his opening statement to the jury that Bundy and the other men failed to comply with court orders set in 1998 and 2013 that Bundy must surrender his cattle if he would not pay grazing fees and obtain a permit to operate on federal land.
“These events were not protests,” Myhre said Tuesday. “A protest sends a message peacefully.
“It is a crime to impede … an enforcement officer as they execute an order of the court,” he added.
Prosecutors have argued the armed gunmen were using force and intimidation to defy the rule of law.
Answering Bundy’s call for help in the standoff, hundreds of followers – many heavily armed – descended on his ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, about 75 miles (120 km) northeast of Las Vegas, in April 2014, demanding that his livestock be returned.
Outnumbered law enforcement officers ultimately retreated rather than risk bloodshed, and no shots were ever fired.
But the dispute marked a flashpoint in long-simmering tensions between right-wing activists and the government over federal control of public lands in the West.
Defense lawyers have argued that the Bunkerville defendants were exercising constitutionally protected rights to assembly and to bear arms, casting the 2014 showdown as a patriotic act of civil disobedience against government overreach.
Defense attorneys were scheduled to make their opening statements later on Tuesday in a trial expected to last through February.
Standing trial with Bundy, 71, are his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, and a fourth defendant, Ryan Payne, a Montana resident linked by prosecutors to a militia group called Operation Mutual Aid.
Cliven and Ammon Bundy wore red prison uniforms on Tuesday in court, while Ryan Bundy and Payne dressed in civilian clothes.
Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with five other people, were all acquitted in a separate conspiracy case last year stemming from the 2016 armed takeover of a federal wildlife center in Oregon.
(Additional reporting by John L. Smith in Las Vegas; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Michael Perry and Lisa Shumaker)
‘Making things worse’: National Farmer’s Union chief unloads on Trump in blistering statement on trade war
Roger Johnson, the president of the National Farmers Union, delivered a blistering rebuke to President Donald Trump after he responded to new tariffs from China by issuing a purported "order" telling American companies to look for alternative places to manufacture their goods.
In an official statement, Johnson pointed out that farmers so far have felt the brunt of the president's trade war, as China has slapped heavy tariffs on key agricultural products such as soybeans.
He also crushed the president for failing to make any progress on reopening the Chinese market to American goods.
Google tells workers to avoid arguing politics in house
Google on Friday told employees to focus on work instead of heated debates about politics with colleagues at the internet company, which has long been known for encouraging people to speak their minds.
Updated workplace guidelines for "Googlers" called on them to be responsible, helpful, and thoughtful during exchanges on internal message boards or other conversation forums.
"While sharing information and ideas with colleagues helps build community, disrupting the workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story does not," the updated guidelines stated.
"Our primary responsibility is to do the work we?ve each been hired to do, not to spend working time on debates about non-work topics."
Trump administration urges US Supreme Court to declare firing a worker for being gay is legal
The Trump administration has just urged the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that firing an employee simply because they are gay is perfectly legal. The request comes in the form of a 34-page amicus brief, which was not required, but voluntary.
The brief, signed by Trump Solicitor General Noel Francisco, tells the Court it is the opinion of the administration’s Dept. of Justice that a “plain text” reading of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 do9es not protect gay people in the workplace from discrimination, including firing for being gay, as The Washington Blade, which was first to report, notes.