LAS VEGAS (AP) — Backers of a Nevada rancher at the center of a fight over control of public lands in the West are promising a show of support outside a U.S. courthouse where he’s facing charges that he led an armed standoff against federal agents two years ago.
Cliven Bundy’s wife and other family members and friends said this week the planned demonstration before Bundy’s court appearance on Thursday will show they’re keeping up their fight against the federal government.
“We’re a strong family and we stand together,” family matriarch Carol Bundy told The Associated Press. “I want the world to see that.”
Nevada allows open-carrying of guns, and Las Vegas police and U.S. marshals said they expect some protesters will be armed, but will remain peaceful.
“We support constitutional rights to protest and lawful assembly,” said Officer Larry Hadfield, a Las Vegas police spokesman.
“We have a number of resources that will assist in keeping everyone involved safe,” he said.
Less than 30 minutes’ notice was given last Friday before Bundy, 69, made his first appearance in custody amid tight security before U.S. Magistrate Judge Carl Hoffman in Las Vegas.
Carol Bundy said she wasn’t able to get to the courthouse in time from the family home in Bunkerville, some 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
Bundy had been returned in custody to Nevada from Oregon, where he was arrested Feb. 10 as he arrived at Portland International Airport to visit two sons jailed on charges that they led a 41-day armed occupation of a federal wildlife refuge.
In Las Vegas, Bundy heads a list of 19 people — including four Bundy sons — accused of leading the armed standoff in April 2014 to stop federal agents from rounding up cows from public land near the Bundy ranch.
Cliven Bundy denies U.S. government authority over rangeland around his 160 acres. Federal Bureau of Land Management officials said in 2014 that he owed more than $1.1 million in fees and penalties for grazing hundreds of cows illegally for about 20 years.
Charges in the case to be tried in Las Vegas include conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, assaulting and threatening a federal officer, obstruction, interference with interstate commerce by extortion and several firearms charges. Convictions could result in penalties up to life in prison.