Americans from across the country travelled to Bunkerville, NV to show support for Cliven Bundy’s struggle against the United States government. They did not come because they thought Bundy has a good case. In fact, they came in spite of the fact that he probably has a bad case: he has lost twice in federal court and on appeal. It wasn’t the justice of Bundy’s cause; it was the injustice of the government’s treatment of him that fueled national indignation.
Americans have been increasingly subjected to unwarranted, unexplained, unacceptable and violent intrusions by federal, state, and local police agencies. These police intrusions are carried out by gangs of police dressed up in battle gear, pretending they are performing heroic acts on battlefields, and smashing front doors in the late hours of the night. They yank their victims out of bed, hold them at gunpoint, humiliate and embarrass whoever they can, and kill the family dog. When an intrepid homeowner manages to kill one of the intruders before he is overrun, thinking criminals have invaded his home, he is prosecuted for murder.
These raids have no place in a constitutional republic, and they are often carried out to arrest a single person or to seize small quantities of drugs. And that’s when they’ve got the right house.
This kind of police attack happens 40,000 times a year.
The debacles at Ruby Ridge and Waco, TX come to mind. In the case of Ruby Ridge, federal agents had lured Randy Weaver into a technical gun violation because he refused to be an informant for them. When he failed to appear in court, more than 700 federal agents, national guardsmen, state and local law enforcement officers laid siege to Weaver’s plywood shack in the woods, where he lived with his wife and children. Before it was over, his wife was killed by a sniper at 200 meters while holding an infant, and his son was killed by MP5 fire from a “reconnaissance” police agent. Luckily, to protect its agents, the FBI had arranged for the presence of armored personnel carriers. [See Footnote 1]
In the case of Waco, an ATF swat team attempted to break into the religious compound of David Koresh and his followers. With typical ATF incompetence, they dressed themselves in full battle gear and were literally shot off the roof where they had attempted to force entry. After the ATF returned home for re-training, the FBI took over and laid siege. Janet Reno, the Attorney General at the time, expressed concern about the children within the compound. After the FBI set fire to the compound … are you ready for this… with a tank, they managed to kill more than a dozen of the children they were concerned about along with sixty or seventy adults.
In the Ruby Ridge and Waco cases, one has to ask, Why didn’t you just knock on the door?” Were you afraid? Aren’t you always boasting about putting your lives “on the line”? If you couldn’t knock on the door, why not wait for the person of interest to show up in town and arrest him there? [See Footnote 2]
In spite of similarities in all of the police malfeasance cases, there is, however, a significant difference between the Bundy case, Ruby Ridge, Waco, and most of the other 40,000 police invasion cases that occur every year: a court had determined that Bundy was a wrongdoer, enjoined him from going on the federal land, and authorized the BLM to seize Bundy’s cattle to satisfy the debt. [Footnote 3] Not only that, but the Bundy dispute with the BLM had been going on for years. The first lawsuit was filed by BLM in 1998. A second was filed in 2013 because Bundy’s cattle were grazing on more federal land than had been covered in the 1998 suit. It can hardly be claimed that the government rushed into confrontation.
So why, then, the public outrage? Most police abuse cases are carried out in the dead of night in secret. By the time news cameras get there, the bodies have already been carried away and the terrorized victims are gone. All that remains is the shell of what used to be a nice house. But in this case, BLM was unfortunate enough to appear suited up for an imaginary war in daylight, ready to fire on unarmed citizens for no apparent reason, tazing them and putting dogs on them. This was seen by millions of viewers on national television, and the emotional resentment that had been building for years against a government police state and its arrogance boiled over. It should have boiled over. It was time for it to boil over. And when it boiled over, many of those watching wanted to join the protesters and say to the police, “Go ahead and shoot us. See what happens then.”
What is at issue here is the arrogance of power. Never mind that BLM may have ended up in a confrontation with Bundy no matter what they did. They were suited up on national television in broad daylight with their guns, helmets and ballistic shields, and they looked like all the other thugs that have done this in other parts of the country for years. They looked like police thugs, they quacked like police thugs, and so in the minds of most people, they were police thugs.
The 40,000 annual police invasion outrages that preceded Bundy are indicative of the failure of government officials to understand their responsibilities and the nature of a constitutional republic. Obama doesn’t get it; Harry Reid doesn’t get it; the BLM doesn’t get it; the FBI doesn’t get it; Homeland Security doesn’t get it, and we need not even mention the ATF. The degree of police ignorance is well-illustrated in the Bundy case by BLM’s creating a small area fenced in with orange plastic and labeled “FIRST AMENDMENT AREA.” That is emblematic of the police idea of citizens’ rights.
The problem is that, in a constitutional republic, citizens are to be treated with respect and with restraint of government power. They are to be given every opportunity to cooperate. This opportunity will often be abused, but that is the price of living in a democracy. And the police are paid to withstand this affront.
Although the management of police activity is routinely turned over to the police itself, they are the least competent to manage this task. As a class, police have no understanding of constitutional rights and no interest in understanding. They did not sign on to be restrained; they signed on to impose their will and demand a subservience they could not as individuals otherwise command. If you want to enrage a population, turn over management of constitutional rights to the police.
Add to this that other government actions are some version of police malfeasance: the collapse of health care with the emergence of death panels, the engagement of the federal government in one scandal after another; government intrusion in private communications; government use of the IRS to punish political opponents, the Congressional Contempt of the U.S. Attorney General, and government advocacy of a “politically correct” environment in which certain words unacceptable to the government may not be said. Yeah, I’d say people were ready to respond to the next high profile event.
It was wise of the government to back off. It is likely that the men and women who were ready to die would have died had there been an armed conflict. BLM was flirting with the modern equivalent of Lexington and Concord.
Harry Reid, the shrunken little man he is, can appear on television and call the Bundy supporters “domestic terrorists,” but the reality is that Harry Reid and the police-state government he represents brought the country to the brink of civil war.
The idea of government restraint is hardly new. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court had this to say in 1954:
Probably the most important function of government is the exercise of the police power for the purpose of preserving the public health, safety and morals, and it is true that, to accomplish that purpose, the legislature may limit the enjoyment of personal liberty and property.. . . But, . . . the power is not unrestricted; its exercise, like that of all other governmental powers, is subject to constitutional limitations and judicial review. By a host of authorities, Federal and State alike, it has been held that a law which purports to be an exercise of the police power must not be unreasonable, unduly oppressive or patently beyond the necessities of the case, and the means which it employs must have a real and substantial relation to the objects sought to be attained. Under the guise of protecting the public interests, the legislature may not arbitrarily interfere with private business or impose unusual and unnecessary restrictions upon lawful occupations.
Gambone v. Commonwealth, 375 Pa. 547 (1954).
Although this statement of the law technically applies only to Pennsylvania, the ideas involved apply to every state. The police power of government, and by implication of police agencies, “is not unrestricted. . . . [Its exercise] must not be unreasonable, unduly oppressive or patently beyond the necessities of the case.. ..”
Oppressive conduct patently beyond the necessities of the case is exactly what is involved in modern police para-military activity, and what explains the outpouring of support for the Bundys.
The FBI requested that Weaver be an undercover informant against the Aryan Nations white supremacist group. He refused. In retaliation, the FBI then set him up by having agents pose as persons who wanted to buy a gun from Weaver. At the insistence of undercover agents who were buying a shotgun, Weaver cut off the barrel of the shotgun less than an inch shorter than allowed by “law” in order to consummate the sale. This is what justified an assault with more than 700 FBI agents and the deployment of armored vehicles.
Time magazine in its interview with a former BLM director Patrick Shea re-enforces the idea of lesser intrusive approaches:
There are plenty of ways for the government to recoup the money Bundy owes, Shea says, from placing liens on his property to collecting proceeds when the cattle go to slaughter. When you have been waiting a generation to resolve a dispute, what’s another few weeks?
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the United States’ Motion for Summary Judgment (#18) is GRANTED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that defendant Cliven Bundy’s Motion to Dismiss (#28) is DENIED as moot.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Bundy is permanently enjoined from trespassing on the New Trespass Lands.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States is entitled to protect the New Trespass Lands against this trespass, and all future trespasses by Bundy.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Bundy shall remove his livestock from the New Trespass Lands within 45 days of the date hereof, and that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle that remain in trespass after 45 days of the date hereof.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the United States is entitled to seize and remove to impound any of Bundy’s cattle for any future trespasses, provided the United States has provided notice to Bundy under the governing regulations of the United States Department of the Interior. U.S. v. Bundy
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