Bundy, who is running for governor of Idaho, brought his supporters to the home of a judge, exposing a disturbing development in an already polarized political landscape.
In the aftermath of being detained on trespassing charges at a hospital in Idaho, where he is running for governor, far-right militia figure Ammon Bundy started a live video feed on his YouTube page on a recent Friday afternoon.
Bundy appeared dissatisfied when he told his supporters what he thought the government was forcing him to do next. He sighed as he stared down at the camera, wearing an open-collared shirt and his trademark cowboy hat. Then he threatened a sitting Idaho judge and invited his supporters to his house.
“I’m calling on you to put off whatever you’re doing tomorrow and come to [the judge’s] house,” he said to his supporters. I can’t keep you back any longer, patriot groups across Idaho and across the country.”
Bundy had been exiled due to a child custody dispute. But what his actions truly exposed was a worrying trend in America’s increasingly polarized political scene, where far-right politicians feel strong enough to threaten a judge, wield their supporters against state institutions, and run for office with an implicit threat of violence.
By the time Bundy made his remarks, his 17,000 YouTube subscribers had been receiving near-daily updates about a 10-month-old infant in Boise, Idaho, who had been removed into temporary custody from his parents after officials determined the child was malnourished and in danger.
Bundy’s campaign consultant and buddy Diego Rodriguez is the grandpa of the child at the center of a dispute that has engulfed even the far-right deputy governor, Janice McGeehan. Rodriguez, an ultra-conservative pastor, represents the Christian right’s attempt to establish a “theocracy” in Idaho.
Bundy shouted against what he called the government’s “kidnapping” of his family. Bundy pushed his supporters – who are often armed – to physically converge on the judge’s residence after an Ada county judge signed a warrant giving interim custody of the child to health and wellness officials, alarming local police.
Bundy hadn’t been in the news in a long time. Following a similar request in 2021, it wasn’t even his first time asking his supporters to swarm an Idaho judge’s home.
After waging an armed standoff at their ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, Bundy and his family have become well-known antigovernmental icons. Ammon Bundy’s father, Cliven Bundy, resisted paying grazing fees to the Bureau of Land Management for 20 years, claiming that his cattle had a greater right to the land than the federal government.
How far-right figures like Ammon Bundy ccause chaos in US politics https://t.co/NwRcIlWBko
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 5, 2022
Hundreds of demonstrators and several armed militia members came to their aid as armed federal officers were dispatched to seize the cattle due to non-payment. After a mistrial, charges against Cliven and his two sons, Ammon and Ryan, were dropped after the federal prosecutor neglected to turn over evidence and reveal the availability of surveillance camera footage and the presence of federal snipers in the area.
Ammon Bundy led a high-profile armed takeover and long occupation of the Malheur national wildlife park, a bird sanctuary in eastern Oregon, two years later in 2016. Ammon and Ryan Bundy were charged with conspiracy in federal court that year, but were found not guilty once more.
Bundy, on the other hand, has adapted to new circumstances in American politics, as the Republican Party has swung right under Donald Trump’s sway, and far-right militia organizations like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers have garnered headlines, notably after the January 6 assault on the Capitol. Bundy, on the other hand, has drew far less attention as he developed a cell-like network at the state level that can organize meals to foster community while also producing on-demand demonstrators.
Bundy’s People’s Rights Network aspires to bring together militia members, anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, preppers, and other far-right activists. Its size dwarfs the combined size of most far-right organizations. Many analysts believe it poses a serious threat to democracy.
“They’ve consistently demonstrated their ability to mobilize large groups of armed far-right activists to threaten, harass, and intimidate public authorities,” said Devin Burghart, head of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a non-profit that tracks the far right.
While many national far-right organizations retreated in 2021 as they faced more attention from law authorities, People’s Rights Network surged by 53% last year. According to a survey by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, it now has 33,000 members spread over 38 states.
“People’s Rights Network’s Ammon Bundy was the first to recognize Covid-19 denial as a mobilizing tool. Burghart was “the first to mobilize militants to oppose Covid-19 limits and to bring together anti-vaxxers, paramilitaries, Proud Boys, and others into a bigger movement to protest and defend such attempts,” according to Burghart.
Bundy, according to Burghart, has demonstrated his ability to radicalize individuals by “participating in local strife.” Whether it’s showing up at vaccination sites and threatening healthcare personnel, or bullying members of school boards.”
Local police announced that the infant at the center of the quarrel would be restored to the parents under court-ordered stipulations in the case of the call for militias to descend on the Ada county judge’s residence. “There is no need to continue demonstrating or harassing our public health officials, police officers, or anybody else engaged,” Meridian police said in a statement.