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Going to Extremes: The Anti-Government Extremism Behind the Growing Movement to Seize America’s Public Lands

By staff - Center for Western Priorities, July 7, 2016

The 2016 armed standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon provided the American public with a ringside seat to a disturbing trend on U.S. public lands: extremist and militia groups using America’s national forests, parks, monuments, and wildlife refuges to advance their anti-government beliefs.

But these far right-wing organizations are not operating in a vacuum. To the contrary, the armed insurrection in Oregon and Nevada before—led by Ammon Bundy and the Bundy family—share the same foundations as land transfer schemes promoted by some elected leaders in states throughout the West. Both rely upon a philosophy based in vehement anti-government ideologies, both have connections to organizations that espouse armed resistance, both employ pseudo-legal theories to justify their actions, and both use scholarly support from conspiracy theorists and discredited academics.

Our nation’s parks and network of public lands are one of our finest democratic achievements. Americans see management of public lands as one of the things our government does best. But over the last four years, politicians and special interest groups in 11 Western states and in Congress have tried to seize many of these places and turn them over to state and private control.

The elected officials supporting state seizure of U.S. public lands couch their arguments carefully, but our research shows their close associations to extreme individuals, groups, and ideology characterized by antigovernment paranoia and a pseudo-legal approach to the Constitution.

Since the beginning of 2015, 54 land seizure bills have been introduced into Western states, including Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. At least 22 state legislators with direct connections to anti-government ideologies or extremist groups were the primary sponsors on 29 of those bills.

Sitting at the hub of the movement and functioning as the bridge between extremism and the mainstream political debate are Utah Rep. Ken Ivory, Montana Sen. Jennifer Fielder, and their non-profit, the American Lands Council. A close analysis of Rep. Ivory and Sen. Fielder’s activities, and those of other active land seizure proponents at the state level, shows how these efforts are a functional part of an aggressive anti-government movement that will grow more potent if reasonable Americans don’t take action.

Read the report (PDF).

LIUNA Partners with Anti-Union Forces, AFP and ALEC Advocating with Koch Money for Risky Keystone XL Tarsands Pipeline

By staff - Bold Nebraska, January 2015

Since 2010, the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has partnered with several anti-union organizations that are funded by the Koch brothers along with TransCanada to gain approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Many construction unions partner with industry to win approval for projects and secure work for their members; this is often appropriate and productive. However, the industry and political partnerships that LIUNA has forged to gain approval of Keystone XL (KXL) seriously undermines workers’ rights and unions’ strength, and display a complete lack of concern for the broader labor movement or even the longer-term interests of LIUNA members.

In fact, their partnerships with the fossil fuel industry and far right political groups, namely Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), contribute to the vicious attacks on workers, unions and democracy.

Read the report (PDF).

Why I Hate The Government

By Judi Bari - Industrial Worker, October 1991.

I hate the government, and I've never had any faith in working through the system. My 20 years of political activism have all been out on the front linesfrom anti-war riots to wildcat strikes to Earth First! logging blockades. I know the history of violent repression of the Wobblies the Communists, the Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement. But nothing in my knowledge or experience could have prepared me for the sheer horror of being bombed and maimed while organizing against big timber last year. And I never thought I would be doing something as grandiose and apparently ingenious as suing the FBI. But neither did I expect to find our movement under attack by a COINTELPRO-type operation led by Richard Held, the very same FBI/Gestapo agent who framed and jailed Leonard Pettier and Geronimo Pratt.

Richard Held is the head of the San Francisco FBI office. He is the agent in charge of my and Darryl's case, and he went on TV after the bombing to say that Darryl and I were the only suspects in the assassination attempt that nearly took my life. Held became notorious during the 1970s for his active role in COINTELPRO, an outrageous and illegal FBI program to disrupt and destroy any group that challenged the power that be. COINTELPRO's method was to foment internal discord in activist groups, isolate and discredit them, terrorize them, and assassinate their leaders. The best known example of this was Black Panther Fred Hampton, who was murdered by Chicago police in an FBI-planned assault as he slept in his bed in a Chicago apartment in 1969.

Richard Held's personal role in COINTELPRO began in L.A. in the early 1970s, where he ordered the FBI to draw and send insulting cartoons, supposedly from one faction to another in the L.A. Black Panthers. This heated up antagonisms between the factions so much that, with a little help from FBI infiltrators, they erupted into shooting wars that left two Panthers dead. Richard Held also sent fake info to the press to discredit actress and Panther supporter Jean Seberg, who eventually committed suicide as a result. Held's final coup in L.A. was to frame and jail Geronimo Pratt for supposedly murdering two people on a tennis court over a petty robbery.

Held was also on hand in Pine Ridge South Dakota in 1975 to help direct the FBI's reign of terror against the American Indian Movement. In this case the FBI took advantage of existing divisions in the native community to hook up with a vigilante group called GOONS, or Guardians of the Oglala Nation. These local thugs were armed by the FBI and guaranteed that they would not be prosecuted for crimes against AIM members. They attacked over 300 AIM people and killed 70 of them. The Pine Ridge campaign ended with a military sweep of the reservation by 200 SWAT agents, and with the framing and jailing of Leonard Peltier.

Another of Richard Held's accomplishments was in San Diego, where he was instrumental in organizing an FBI-funded right-wing paramilitary group called the Secret Army organization (SAO). The SAO kept tabs on leftists, burned down a community theater, and tried to assassinate a radical professor at San Diego State University.

In 1978 Richard Held was transferred to Puerto Rico where he oversaw the execution of two Independista leaders who were made to kneel, then shot in the head. Held stayed on until 1985, when he stage managed an island-wide SWAT assault by 300 agents who busted in doors and rounded up activists.

For all his good work, Richard Held was then promoted to be in charge of the San Francisco FBI, where he still works today. And I don't know if the FBI put that bomb in my car, but I know for certain that they tried to frame me for it and made sure the real bomber wasn't found. Looking back on the bizarre events that took place around the bombing, it is now clear that the techniques of COINTELPRO were being used against us. What is not clear, based on the way this story has played in the mainstream press, is what we were doing to merit the wrath of such a notorious assassin as Richard Held. You can be sure that it was more than just trying to save some pretty trees.

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