Cliven Bundy’s revolution peters out


And so the great Malheur refuge takeover that was supposed to herald a revolution of constitutional patriots against a tyrannical government ended with a whimper as the four remaining holdouts surrendered and were arrested. Other people have also been arrested in other states.

It looks like the authorities had learned from earlier fiascos where they tried to meet bravado with force, resulting in bloodshed. This time they tried a cautious wait-and-see attitude, trying out various options such as mixing giving the occupiers lots of freedom to restricting it, coupled with negotiations, and waiting for them to emerge.

Almost every aspect of the six-week standoff – lying low, using a roadblock to arrest eight of the militants last month, and using an outside intermediary to coax the last four occupiers to leave the refuge – was the result of decades of trial and error, including some spectacular failures the FBI is anxious not to repeat.

Gary Noesner, a retired FBI hostage negotiator, said he was consulted three times during the Oregon standoff. The first two times he offered the same broad advice that was eventually followed: hang back, be patient, and let local law enforcement take the lead to undermine the argument that the feds were out to get the occupiers.

The third time, however, Noesner was more critical, questioning whether it was a good idea to let the occupiers come and go as they pleased and restock. Shortly afterwards, the FBI and Oregon police set up the roadblock that led to the arrest of eight people including the occupation ringleader, Ammon Bundy, and the fatal shooting of militiaman LaVoy Finicum.

“I thought they [the protesters] might be getting a little too comfortable in there,” Noesner told the Guardian. “I didn’t think they should let them come and go. You can’t really expect to resolve a situation if you give people complete freedom of movement.”

The roadblock was another classic FBI technique. Experience has taught the agency that the safest way to make an arrest is if you can get people away from their supporters and pick a spot away from the public that has been vetted in advance. “We call it the mobile option, and it’s almost always successful.”

The arrest of Cliven Bundy at the Portland airport seems like an entirely unforced error on the part of the militants because had been seen as the symbol of successful resistance. Why he decided that announcing publicly that he was going to Oregon was a good idea is a mystery. This enabled the authorities to monitor flights and once they knew he was on the plane to Portland, all they had to do was wait at the gate there to pick him up, knowing that there would be no weapons and no mass of supporters.

His appearance in court must have been less than inspirational for his followers who may have expected a show of defiance.

In Portland this afternoon, Cliven Bundy shuffled into the courtroom looking tired, wearing a light blue prison jumpsuit and sandals – with his ankles chained together. For about 30 minutes he sat with his attorney, from the public defenders’ office, talking over the 32-page indictment, while the courtroom looked on quietly and judge Janice Stewart waited in her chambers.

The judge also strongly urged the outspoken Bundy not to talk about the case with anyone aside from his attorney. Asked whether he understood, Bundy mumbled, “yes.”

It was the only word he said before the court in the first day of hearings.

The judge also said the court would need to determine whether he had the finances to pay for his own attorney or be allowed to continue with a court-appointed one.

Given that he seems to be, on the surface at least, a person of considerable means, the irony asking for a government-funded attorney seems to have been lost on Bundy, especially considering that he and his supporters think the government is tyrannical. You can read the criminal complaint against him here.

Now that he is their custody, the government is throwing the book at him for his threatened use of force and defiance of orders and his incitement of others to do the same. But is the shackling of his ankles really necessary? Is it routinely done? An elderly man hardly seems likely to make a break for it. If it is done only to deliberately humiliate someone, then it is wrong.

But the question remains as to whether the authorities would adopt this same patient approach if in a future standoff the people resisting are minorities or Muslims, or whether such a soft gloved treatment is only reserved for a privileged class.

Comments

  1. says

    was the result of decades of trial and error, including some spectacular failures the FBI is anxious not to repeat

    That’s code for: “they’ve known how to do this for a long time but they’re gun-toting swinging dicks and they only decided to try what works AFTER they killed a lot of people and made themselves look horribly bad.”

  2. says

    Mano writes:
    If it is done only to deliberately humiliate someone, then it is wrong.

    Wrong reason. It’s done to scare others. “Look what we can do to you if you don’t obey.” That’s why they tortured KSM well past the point where he had anything to tell anybody, or Chelsea Manning – who was not capable of leaking anything anymore once she was captured. They are trying to scare everyone into subjection.

    Honest analysis of the political process always results in awareness that the state is inherently authoritarian and would not exist unless it monopolized the threat of violence and then used that monopoly widely. The more inequality/unfairness there is in the system, the more authoritarian it feels it needs to be: you can tell which governments have turned on ‘their’ people by the degree to which their cops need to go around armed and ready to kill.

  3. lorn says

    On the exterior side the leg shackles are mostly security theater and a way for the authorities to show to Bundy supporters that he is very much in custody and deeply under control. This is particularly poignant with a group which touts ‘freedom’ as its prime motivation.

    On the inside it is also something of a psychological control effort through domination and shock to limit outbursts and demonstrations. They want things to go swiftly and smoothly.

    Cliven will get his day in court and typically all the restraints are removed and prison garb discarded so they don’t bias the jury.

    Some of how these situations are handled is controlled by the party, and demeanor, of the executive branch. Ruby Ridge was a Bush Sr effort. The Branch Davidians in Waco TX assault was planned under Bush Sr, and so might be considered under way. Clinton took office on January 20 with Attorney General Janet Reno coming into office March 12. The Assault started early on Feb 28, 1993 and came to its fiery conclusion on April 19.

    Presidents can have effects outside of normal and expected channels. TH Challenger disaster has been widely blamed on Reagan because the repeated failures to launch were seen as showing his administration to be hapless. Phone calls were made and NASA administrators were ‘encouraged’ to make a good show of it. So on a freezing morning, despite warnings from some of the engineers, they went for it.

    Presidents set the tone.

  4. says

    “But the question remains as to whether the authorities would adopt this same patient approach if in a future standoff the people resisting are minorities or Muslims, or whether such a soft gloved treatment is only reserved for a privileged class.”

    Oh, we ALL know the answer to this. If these terrorists had been anything other than white and Christian, they’d all have been killed within the first days.

  5. says

    WMDKitty — Survivor says (#5) –

    If these terrorists had been anything other than white and Christian, they’d all have been killed within the first days.

    If they had been black and christian, they would have been killed within the first days. Or even hours.

    And we all remember (or had better learn if we don’t) what happened to MOVE in Philadelphia. People don’t have to be a threat to others for cops to bomb and murder them.

  6. lorn says

    I think the deciding factor on being receptive to a more passive approach had to do with the simple fact that the occupiers were in a remote area and well away from populations that could be killed or taken hostage. The occupiers had also taken pains to avoid violence and confrontation by, in part, taking over forest service buildings that were, at best, minimally occupied by the authorities and in the off season.

    Had the occupation been in a more populated area or had they put civilians more at risk the response would have been.IMHO, far less relaxed. As it was, with few people at risk, there was no need to push. Winter cold and boredom could be allowed to take their toll.

  7. Mano Singham says

    I think another factor was the low-key public reaction. There were no howls of outrage and demands that the government take action immediately, that otherwise they would look weak and ‘the terrorists would have won’, as would have been the case if they had been different. This gave the government a great deal of flexibility in action.

  8. says

    Cliven’s strategy has always been to escalate any situation as quickly as possible to one requiring lethal force, counting on his privilege and the feds reticience to create a martyr. By employing shackles and a prison jumpsuit the feds are making it nearly impossible to escalate the situation. The feds have every expectation that given any chance Bundy would call on his fellow travellers to create a situation where he slips out of federal custody and is able to get to an armed camp. And as a result they are using every existing protocol on the books to prevent this. He decided to act like a warlord, and the fed have decided to treat him as such.

    This also makes it abundantly clear that there are consequences for his actions. A resident of Ferguson might well face this for missing a court date or not paying a moderate fine. If Bundy was actually engaged in civil disobedience he would treat the shackles as a badges of honor. But Bundy’s actions are of a supreme narcissist and the inability of him to stage manage the situation from an position of power is a major blow to him. The action most likely to defuse this movement is to make clear the foolishness and arrogance will result in a severe reality check.

  9. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    @7 and @8
    This was not a community’s REACTION to anything done by outsiders (as in Ferguson), this was a planned move by outside agitatiors to take control of the community in some sort of gesture.

    I’ve seen Cliven’s indictment – something that detailed doesn’t pop into existence. It took a lot of work to put that together, so the delay is not unusually long. And if they became aware that Ammon Bundy was planning something to dramatically escalate the Hammond situation – they were in Burns making threats as early as November – letting him make a public nuisance of himself was a good plan.

    Arresting Cliven? Well, he got a bit too comfortable with feeling untouchable.

  10. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    @9 “The feds have every expectation that given any chance Bundy would call on his fellow travellers to create a situation where he slips out of federal custody and is able to get to an armed camp. ”

    Yes, the calls to action on FaceBook are awesome, as are the calls to donate for gas money, car repairs and transportation. Logistics is not the cosplaytriots’ strong suit.

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