In 2013 the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) obtained federal court orders authorizing the agency to “seize and remove to impound” hundreds of Cliven Bundy’s cattle on the public ranges around Bunkerville, Nevada. The agency interpreted these court orders broadly, and descended on the area in April 2014 with some 200 body-armor-wearing agents, semiautomatic weapons, sniper teams, undercover informants, and surveillance cameras aimed at the Bundy residence.
The BLM brought more than corralls and horse trailers. They brought backhoes, dumptrucks and earth-moving equipment to tear up water lines and other infrastructure that had been built by Bundy and his ancestors over decades. Defying county officials, the federal officers chose calving season—the very time when cows and newborn calves are most physically weak and vulnerable—to execute the court orders. They orchestrated a paramilitarized roundup operation using helicopters to terrify the cattle into stampeding to the point of exhaustion in extreme heat. At least 40 cows either died from the ordeal or were shot by BLM employees and contractors.
The Feds even used the impoundment order to establish “First Amendment Zones” limiting freedom of speech in a 600,000-acre area to two small isolated parcels in the desert. It was almost certainly the largest infringement of First Amendment rights (by area) in American history.
When Bundy’s son Dave stopped on a state highway to photograph BLM snipers on local hillsides, BLM agents threw him down, ground his face into asphalt and falsely arrested him. And when other family members stopped a BLM dump truck to inquire if the truck was carrying dead cows, BLM agents erupted in a flurry of violence.