The idea of justice, as it relates to someone getting what they deserve whether it is reward or punishment, seems to be a rare commodity in America lately. There is a saying that “the wheel of justice grinds exceedingly slow, but it grinds exceedingly fine,” that loosely means “justice delayed is not justice denied, it is just delayed; there will be justice.” Many Americans would take issue with the idea that there will ever be justice in this nation for a large segment of the population due to their racial makeup or economic situation regardless what side of the law they find themselves.
There certainly has been no justice for victims as of late when law enforcement is allowed to gun down unarmed African Americans with impunity while racists praise them and conservative media defends them. There has been little justice as well for the overwhelming number of Republican governors under investigation for a plethora of violations, or bankers that helped create the Great Recession, or the Bush-Cheney administration’s confessed war crimes and they likely never will get what they deserve. Many Americans wondered loudly why seditionist rancher Cliven Bundy never faced immediate, or any, justice for violating several federal court orders and marshalling revolution-minded armed militias to confront federal agents doing their job. Even though months after the infamous standoff Bundy is still free, there have been announcements and reports that Nevada and federal officials are actively investigating the incident and promise Bundy will face justice for breaking the law, but they missed their opportunity to stave off more anti-government mischief.
Last week, the Bureau of Land Management finally took action against another group of anti-government activists who blatantly trespassed on federal land because like Bundy, they do not believe the federal government has a right to own land or that federal law applies to them. The issue was a so-called “protest” over the Bureau of Land Management’s policies for public land that resulted in five people being charged for trespassing and riding all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) into and over a protected Utah canyon last May. In 2007 the BLM closed off Recapture Canyon to motorized vehicles to keep archaeological sites protected from careless idiots driving over ancient burial sites. After seven years and the Bundy standoff precedent, about 50 riders decided they too could violate the federal government restriction with impunity as a means of condemning what they regard as “gross overreach of federal authority.” It is the same claim made by Cliven Bundy, Republicans, conservative media, and armed militias who believe the federal government has no right to manage its own land or protect archaeological heritage sites.
It is noteworthy that the Utah ATV ride was about one month after the federal government ran away from armed seditionists who warned state and federal law enforcement officials if they did not call off the roundup of Bundy’s cattle illegally grazing on federal land, there would be violence. Bundy and his armed militias refuse to acknowledge the federal government has jurisdiction over federal land. The resulting standoff and federal defeat was the beginning of a series of actions by extremist anti-government thugs who are not going to tolerate any restrictions on federal land in the West; the Utah ATV ride was just one anti-government Republican action intended to bring an end to federal land ownership and regulatory policies.
Instead of charging all 50 trespassers, including one of Cliven Bundy’s sons, the government charged the organizers, including a San Juan County commissioner who was the primary instigator, and four others with conspiring to operate ATVs on closed and protected federal lands. They were also charged with actually carrying out the conspiracy by leading the other riders on those protected public lands and over the federally-protected archaeological sites. If they are convicted, and one desperately hopes they are, each defendant faces up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines. The U.S. Attorney handling the case, Carlie Christensen, said in a prepared statement that “We respect the fact that the citizens of this State have differing and deeply held views regarding the management and use of Recapture Canyon, and recognize that they have the right to express those opinions freely. Nevertheless, those rights must be exercised in a lawful manner and when individuals choose to violate the law, rather than engage in lawful protest, we will seek to hold those individuals accountable under the law.”
That the federal government is holding the anti-government malcontents accountable to the law is encouraging news for Americans who believe no-one is above the law, but likely bad news for the federal government that faces a growing and angry anti-government Republican movement on a crusade to seize federally-owned land for their fossil fuel industry campaign donors. In several western states such as Arizona, Texas, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada to name a few, Republicans are actively campaigning for office with a promise to develop a strategy to seize federal land, including national parks, waterways, and historic sites in their states to give to the oil, mining, and logging industry as recompense for funding their campaigns. The dirty energy and logging industry want the land in their private hands to avoid environmental regulations.
There is also the issue of the government waiting too long to hold lawbreakers accountable for their actions; specifically seditionist Cliven Bundy and his armed militias. The restriction against motorized vehicles being driven in Recapture Canyon and over protected archaeological sites had been in effect for seven years (since 2007), but Utah Republicans did not decide to break the law until after the federal government allowed the Bundy seditionists to chase them off of federal land. It is exactly why allowing the “wheel of justice to grind exceedingly slow” is not always the wisest course of action. If Bundy and his vigilantes had been arrested immediately, it would have sent a powerful message that the federal government is exercising its constitutional authority in managing and owning federal land. A constitutional provision that Republicans now believe is in question and dependent on how many armed seditionists show up to confront the federal government that none of them recognize or fear because they have not been held accountable for violating the law.
What is curious is why the U.S. Attorney is just now charging 5 Utah anti-government activists for a violation that occurred in May, and why on Earth have they not charged Cliven Bundy and his band of armed thugs for their obvious crimes that incited the Utah violators to action? It is not as if there is a lack of evidence that Bundy’s gang leveled loaded assault weapons at federal agents, or that Bundy was in contempt of two federal court orders and owed the government over a million dollars in fines, grazing fees, and penalties. The federal government and the state of Nevada have no excuse for allowing Bundy to marshal Republicans, conservative media, and armed anti-government militias into his war against the government owning land. Now because the government failed to act in a timely manner, it is not just one anti-government rancher and armed vigilantes against the federal government owning land, it is the entirety of western state Republicans and their fossil fuel industry money machine.