How far-right figures like Ammon Bundy are causing chaos in American politics | American News
OOn recent Friday afternoon, far-right militia figure Ammon Bundy launched a live video stream on his YouTube channel following to be arrested accused of trespassing at a hospital in Idaho, where he is a candidate for governor.
Bundy appeared disappointed to tell his supporters what he believed the government was forcing him to do next. He looked down at the camera, wearing an open-necked shirt and his usual cowboy hat, and let out a sigh. Then he threatened a sitting Idaho judge, urging his supporters to come to his house.
Addressing his supporters, he said: “I ask you to put off what you are doing until tomorrow and come [the judge’s] home… Patriot groups all over Idaho and all over the country, I can’t try to hold you any longer.
What had cut Bundy so much was a child custody case. But what his actions have really exposed is a troubling development in America’s increasingly divided political landscape where far-right figures feel emboldened enough to threaten a judge, brandish their supporters against the institutions of the State and where an implicit threat of violence is increasingly present. as they seek elected office.
At the time Bundy made his remarks, his 17,000 YouTube subscribers were receiving near-daily updates about a 10-month-old child near Boise, Idaho, who was placed under the temporary care of his parents after the authorities determined that the child was severely malnourished and in imminent danger.
Diego Rodriguez, campaign consultant and friend of Bundy, is the grandfather of the child at the center of a controversy that even far-right Deputy Governor Janice McGeachin has found herself embroiled in. An ultra-conversative pastor, Rodriguez is emblematic of the Christian fringe pushing to create an American “theocracy” in Idaho.
Bundy spoke out against what he saw as “kidnapping” at the hands of the government. After an Ada County judge signed a warrant transferring temporary custody of the child to health and welfare officials, Bundy urged his supporters – who are often armed – to physically descend on the judge , to the deep alarm of the local police.
This wasn’t the first time Bundy made headlines. It wasn’t even the first time his followers had invaded an Idaho judge’s home, after a similar call in 2021.
Bundy and his family have long been established figures in anti-government folklore after they fought an armed confrontation at their ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada. For 20 years, Cliven Bundy, Ammon Bundy’s father, avoided paying pasture fees to the Bureau of Land Management, insisting that his cattle had more right to the land than the federal government.
When armed federal agents were sent to confiscate the cattle for non-payment, hundreds of protesters and armed militiamen came to their aid. Charges against Cliven and her two sons, Ammon and Ryan, were dismissed after a mistrial in which the federal prosecutor failed to turn over evidence and disclose the existence of surveillance camera footage and the presence of federal snipers in the area.
Two years later, in 2016, Ammon Bundy led a high-profile armed takeover and long-running occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, a bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon. That year, Ammon and Ryan Bundy were charged with conspiracy in federal court, but again found not guilty.
But Bundy adapted to the new era of American politics as the Republican Party swung under the influence of Donald Trump, and far-right militias like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers made headlines, including after the January 6 assault on the Capitol. . Bundy, however, has garnered far less attention because he has built a state-by-state cell-like network that can host dinner parties to create a sense of community but also produce protesters on demand.
Bundy’s People’s Rights Network aims to form a coalition of militia members, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, preppers and other far-right travelers. Its size dwarfs most far-right groups put together. And many experts see it as a real threat to democracy.
“They have repeatedly shown their ability to mobilize large numbers of armed far-right activists to threaten, harass and intimidate public officials,” said Devin Bernhardt, director of the Human Rights Research and Education Institute. Rights, a non-profit organization that monitors the far right.
While 2021 saw a setback for many domestic far-right groups as they faced intense scrutiny from law enforcement, People’s Rights Network grew last year by 53 %. Today, it has 33,000 members in 38 states, according to a report by the Institute for Human Rights Research and Education.
“Ammon Bundy, with People’s Rights Network, was the first to seize on Covid-19 denial as a vehicle for mobilization. The first to galvanize activists to oppose Covid-19 restrictions and merge anti-vaxxers, paramilitaries, Proud Boys and others into a larger movement to protest and protect these kinds of efforts,” Bernhardt said.
Bernhardt says Bundy has shown his ability to radicalize people by “engaging in local conflicts. Whether it’s showing up at vaccination sites and threatening health care providers or showing up at school boards and harassing school board members.
In the case of the call for militias to descend on the Ada County judge’s home, local police announced that the baby at the center of the spat would be returned to the parents according to court-agreed stipulations. In a statement, Meridian Police concluded with a plea: “There is no need to continue protesting or harassing our public health officials, police officers or anyone else involved.”
Bundy called off the protest. But within a week Bundy had announced a new rally – a potluck to recruit new members to the cause.
“Ammon Bundy is important because in many ways his efforts are an indicator of where the paramilitary side of the movement is heading,” Bernhardt said.