Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) on Saturday called on state officials to help him rid his district of armed militiamen who have vowed to protect rancher Cliven Bundy and his “trespass cattle.”
More than three weeks after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management canceled all efforts to remove Bundy’s cattle from federal property in Gold Butte, Nevada, thereby avoiding a violent confrontation with the rancher’s armed supporters, self-described militia members still remain camped out near Bundy’s ranch.
Horsford, whose remarks were made during an address to the Clark County Democratic Convention in Las Vegas, said dozens of his constituents have complained about the presence of armed militia near Bundy’s 150-acre ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, Politico reported.
Horsford said one man told him that Bundy, a “welfare rancher,” has been enjoying federal subsidies for years, all the while complaining about government overreach.
The continued presence of armed militia, according to Horsford, has become increasingly upsetting for Nevadans who disagree with the 67-year-old rancher’s claim to land owned by the U.S. government.
A fifth-grade girl reportedly told the Democratic congressman at a public event in Mesquite, Nevada, that she thinks Bundy has a “sense of entitlement.”
Horsford told the crowd of nearly 200 delegates on Saturday that he has called on Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, and other elected official in Nevada “to do their part to get rid of these armed separatists.”
Bundy’s legal fight with the federal government appears likely to continue to drag on for several years. Many supporters, some of them armed, have stayed on to ensure that the rancher can continue to graze on federal property.
Although it’s unclear how long Bundy’s supporters intend to remain in the Bunkerville area, a fight last week between militiamen and the Oath Keepers, an organization committed to defending the U.S. Constitution, could signal that support for the rancher has fallen into disarray.
Angered militiamen were caught on tape last week denouncing the Oath Keepers after the group’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, evacuated his members from the area following rumors that Attorney General Eric Holder had called in a drone strike.
“Yes, it is true: Oath Keepers received a bizarre bit of leaked info which could not be verified but which also could not be ignored. Our contact is connected with the Department of Defense – or ‘was,’” Rhodes said in a statement on the group’s website. “The info we received stated that Eric Holder of the Department of Justice had okayed a drone strike on the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville, Nevada, within a 48 hour period over the weekend of April 26/27, 2014.”
“That, fortunately, turned out to be ‘dis-info’ – a false rumor. And though it came from a trusted source, Oath Keepers could neither prove nor disprove it,’” the statement added. “This mis-info came from a trusted source, a former Special Forces soldier with significant connections inside DOD.”
A contingent of militiamen condemned Rhodes’ group for “abandoning their post,” declaring the Oath Keepers unfit to protect Bundy and his cattle.
“We are open to gentlemanly conversation. But this man and the people that obeyed that order have violated my personal creed,” a Montana militiaman, Ryan Payne, said in a video that was later uploaded to YouTube. “You don’t f***ing walk in and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ and you’re back in, brother. You can walk in and say you’re sorry, and you’re lucky that you’re not getting shot in the back. Because that’s what happens to deserters on the battlefield.”
Meanwhile, it appears that Bundy has also lost almost all of his support from previously sympathetic lawmakers.
Sandoval is on record saying he is concerned with how the Bureau of Land Management handled the failed roundup operation, citing the agency’s “troubling” decision to designate certain areas for First Amendment activity. Heller initially offered a more enthusiastic defense of Bundy, calling the rancher and his supporters “patriots.”
But both Nevada Republicans have since distanced themselves from the issue following the release of a video showing Bundy saying he wonders whether “the Negro” would be better off “picking cotton” than living on government subsidies.
Sandoval said Friday that Nevadans have “a right to feel safe in their homes,” the Associated Press reported.
Asked if he will call on Sherriff Gillespie to remove the militiamen, Sandoval said: “No, and even if he had said that, I wouldn’t share that with you, because certainly that’s a conversation between the two of us.”
“I just know that he is monitoring the situation and he’s very aware of what’s going on out there,” he added, KRNV-TV reported.
Heller immediately condemned Bundy’s “negroes” remarks. The Nevada senator has since said very little on the subject.
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