Ammon Bundy is back in the news! He is, once again, resisting government orders alongside extremist anti-government supporters in a rural area. Let’s discuss.
Who is Ammon Bundy?
Ammon, 47, is one of the children of Cliven Bundy, the Nevada rancher who led an armed standoff in 2014 against agents from the Bureau of Land Management who were attempting to seize some of his cattle as a result of his refusal to pay fees for letting them graze on federal lands. Ammon Bundy was present during the Nevada standoff (and, at one point, was shot with a taser during a confrontation). The standoff ended when federal agents chose to retreat. A number of individuals who were present in support of the Bundys were later convicted of crimes, but charges against the Bundy family members themselves were thrown out by a judge who said prosecutors had failed to properly disclose potentially exculpatory evidence that the government had been the aggressor in the situation.
Did Ammon subsequently lead his own standoff, like a lesser-known member of a popular band releasing a solo album?
Yes. In 2016, Ammon Bundy led an armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in order to protest the prosecution of two area ranchers who’d been convicted of setting illegal fires on adjacent land (and who had a long history of allegedly harassing employees of the refuge). That standoff lasted 41 days; Ammon Bundy and other leaders of the occupation were ultimately pulled over and arrested while attempting to travel by car to a nearby meeting. One occupier was shot and killed after attempting to drive away from the traffic stop, then exiting his vehicle and reaching toward what authorities said was a handgun in his jacket.
While a number of participants in the occupation were convicted of related charges, a jury acquitted Ammon Bundy (and his brother Ryan) of all counts against them. (The defense in the case argued that the Bundys had merely intended to protest against the federal government, not to impede and intimidate federal workers, as they were charged with doing. Cliven Bundy was not involved in the Malheur occupation.) In a chaotic scene after the acquittal, one of Bundy’s lawyers was actually tasered by U.S. marshals.
So …. another standoff now?
Sort of. This one is in Idaho, which is where Ammon Bundy lives when he is not engaging in standoffs in other states.
What is the precipitating act of alleged government tyranny this time?
Ammon Bundy and supporters on his property are refusing to accept service of court papers related to a lawsuit filed against him by a state hospital system, St. Luke’s. The lawsuit alleges that Bundy and others defamed and harassed the hospital and its employees after a March 2022 incident in which the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare brought the infant grandson of one of Bundy’s friends to a hospital location for medical treatment. Bundy and others then assembled on the grounds of the hospital and refused to leave; he was arrested and pleaded guilty in January of this year to misdemeanor trespassing.
The hospital has since sued Bundy , the child’s grandfather, and several affiliated activist groups for making false statements about its doctors (accusing them of kidnapping and kill children and so forth). Bundy has refused to appear in court to respond to the suit, which led the judge in the case to issue a civil arrest warrant against him. Bundy’s People’s Rights Network group has called on supporters to “surround” and protect him, and on Tuesday, one of them blocked the county sheriff’s office from serving the arrest warrant.
So, kind of a standoff.
Right. Local authorities are proceeding cautiously, and no federal authorities have moved to intervene. For the time being, Bundy is holed up on his property, but there’s no one surrounding it or waiting for him or preventing others from entering. On April 24, he actually threw a barbecue.
All these things do sound kind of fun unless you end up getting shot. Bonhomie, common purpose, fresh beef and all that. (They’re ranchers, after all.)
One gets the sense that the social aspect is a big draw, in addition to the motivating zealotry of believing the federal government is itself somehow fundamentally illegal and that anyone acting on its behalf is an enemy agent, potential child trafficker, etc.
Per a local TV station’s report, lawyers for St. Luke’s have referred to Bundy, who they accuse of stoking conspiracies against them to raise money, as a “conflict entrepreneur,” which is a novel phrase for this sort of thing. (Bundy told the station that he is not appearing in court because he can’t afford a lawyer and that he feels the hospital is harassing him.)
What’s going to happen next?
No idea! The Bundys do not seem like masters of conflict resolution, though, and a taser may well become involved.