Local chapters of “People’s Rights” are popping up in Montana communities. We’ve sounded the alarm that the person behind creating People’s Rights is Ammon Bundy, a member of the insurrectionist family that orchestrated armed standoffs in both Nevada and Oregon.
He was arrested recently for leading an armed mob into the Idaho State Capitol to disrupt and intimidate lawmakers during a special legislative session.
Some local People’s Rights activists argue Bundy has nothing to do with their groups. On social media, Bundy has discussed how he started People’s Rights and continues to fan its flames as the group spreads across the country. While it’s true that he likely isn’t distributing specific agenda items for their monthly meetings, these local groups fall under Bundy’s national umbrella.
We don’t think it’s a coincidence that Bundy has tried to keep his name from being synonymous with People’s Rights organizing. Ammon and the rest of the Bundy Family have shown that they exploit anger at the local level and contribute to blowing up situations into armed confrontations. His family’s previous infamy saddles Ammon with negative political baggage.
The decentralized nature of People’s Rights allows Bundy to create a network of activists he can call upon later. By using the generic-sounding name of “People’s Rights” instead of something like “Ammon Bundy’s People’s Meetings,” local groups are able to draw in unsuspecting friends and neighbors, many of whom would avoid a Bundy operation. Ammon Bundy is purposely trying to dupe our communities, and we cannot fall for it.
While local People’s Rights groups may not be receiving specific marching orders from Bundy, they are helping build an organization that follows the Bundy Way. The Bundy Way prioritizes armed insurrection against the government and divisiveness in communities. In Nevada and Oregon, the targets were land managers.
For People’s Rights, it’s clear the targets are community leaders trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Public health officials have replaced the Bureau of Land Management, as People’s Rights elevates individualism and attacks efforts to build community and address public issues through our government.
People’s Rights has divided Montana into five districts for organizing purposes, and we know its meetings are happening in a handful of communities. The state coordinator for Montana, Nick Ramlow, says the group hopes to establish an “Uber-like” militia response system that can be mobilized at any time. These types of private paramilitary forces of which Ramlow speaks aren’t legitimate law enforcement entities and aren’t accountable to anyone but themselves.
Ramlow frames these militias as defensive efforts. Similarly, the Bundys claim their armed standoffs with federal agencies were defensive in nature after they created and provoked the situations. Ramlow boasts about working with militia groups around the state. After he visited Billings, a leader of the Yellowstone Militia of Billings added to his Facebook profile that he was now part of the “Physical Defense Committee” of People’s Rights.
Militias provided much of the support for the Bundy standoffs. However, like the Bundy name, the term “militia” comes with plenty of baggage, including that a militia adherent committed the Oklahoma City bombing. Using a euphemism like “People’s Rights” is an attempt by Bundy and others to hide that the group’s ideology is rooted in the militia movement.
Ammon Bundy has discussed wanting People’s Rights chapters in communities across the country. As the activity grows in these local chapters, we need to remember that inclusive democracy doesn’t happen at the end of a gun barrel. The Bundy Way isn’t the Montana Way, and we don’t want the next Bundy-inspired armed standoff happening in Montana.
Travis McAdam directs the Combating White Nationalism and Defending Democracy program for the Montana Human Rights Network. See the Network’s website at https://mhrn.org/ for more information.