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ACLU of Nevada: Cattle Battle Is First Amendment Victory

PHOTO: The high-profile battle over a cattle roundup near Bunkerville, Nev., has First Amendment implications, ACLU says. Photo: BLM.
PHOTO: The high-profile battle over a cattle roundup near Bunkerville, Nev., has First Amendment implications, ACLU says. Photo: BLM.
April 15, 2014

BUNKERVILLE, Nev. - The ACLU Of Nevada is claiming a First Amendment victory in the cattle battle near Bunkerville, which has captured national media attention. Tod Story, ACLU executive director, said the free speech win resulted from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) removing so-called "free speech zones," as armed protesters gathered in support of rancher Cliven Bundy.

Story warned that the government-designated areas for protesters to gather probably violated the First Amendment.

"They're supposed to be in the proximity of the 'time, place and manner.' It's a question that the courts have entertained and continue to review," Story said.

The First Amendment ensures peaceful assembly in reasonable physical proximity to the subject being protested or supported, he explained, adding that there are multiple reports that the BLM's free speech zones were located an unreasonable distance away from the cattle roundup.

Citing public safety concerns, the BLM stopped its cattle roundup over the weekend and returned several hundred confiscated animals to Bundy. The government seized the cattle, claiming Bundy owes about $1 million in unpaid fees for allowing his animals to illegally graze on public lands over the past 20 years.

Story noted there were several points of view, and said they all have the right to be expressed.

"They have the same rights, regardless of what it is that they're saying, or what their perspective or viewpoints might be," Story stressed. "They all have the same rights to express their point of view under the First Amendment."

There are reports that Bundy is willing to pay the grazing fees to the state, but not to the federal government. The rancher claims his ancestors settled the lands where his cattle now graze, long before the Bureau of Land Management existed.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV