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BLM Investigation Goes to Justice Department

Judy Fahys

A new report says antigovernment groups are gaining steam after last spring’s standoff between federal authorities and Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. Some say Utah people and events are part of the trend. KUER’s Judy Fahys reports.

The federal Bureau of Land Management says it has sent its investigation report on last spring’s Recapture Canyon protest ride to the U.S. Justice Department.

A Utah-based good-government group applauds the move, saying the BLM should hold the protestors accountable for breaking the law.

“Every citizen needs to understand we do have rights, but those rights do not necessarily come without consequence,” says Maryann Martindale, executive director for Alliance for a Better Utah.

“If you choose to break a law, knowingly especially, there is a consequence for that.”

That view echoes the findings of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama think tank that tracks hate groups. The center calls its report War in the West, and it says the armed government standoff last April in Bunkerville, Nevada, has stoked the flames of antigovernment extremism all over.

The group’s Ryan Lenz points to politicians like San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman, who led the ATV protest in San Juan County a few weeks later.

“When you have politicians basically saying that the people who are threatening the rule of law and violence are totally within their freedom to do so, and that the politicians and the law need to change in accord with what they want, I think that’s a problem,” says Lenz.

The group details a long history of militia activity in the United States. But these days politicians and media figures are stoking the flames.

The center’s Mark Potok says it’s dangerous to celebrate this sort of antigovernment extremism.

“I think it’s clear,” he says, “we need to uphold the laws in this country.”

The same actions in an inner city black neighborhood probably would have turned out very differently.

“This is not the way it usually goes when people with large weapons point them at police officers,” he says.

The antigovernment protestors, Potok adds, should not be compared with the nonviolent demonstrators behind the civil rights movement. 

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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