It began with a spectacular victory. In April 2014 several hundred protestors gathered in a desert wash between two highway overpasses near the town of Bunkerville, Nevada, and found that they were able to exert their will directly upon the United States government. They confronted a team of federal agents from the Department of the Interior, who were rounding up a herd of unlicensed cattle, and forced them to retreat.
Both sides were heavily armed, but the agents were outnumbered. The protestors were also wielding heavy symbolism. Some were dressed in camouflage and Velcro, others in Stetsons and boots and riding actual horses. They appeared as Army men and Wild West cowboys – iconic representations of the honest, patriotic salt of the earth. Both looks, by reference to the conflicts of history and Hollywood movies, aligned with white identity politics, and seemed to act as an extra layer of protection from government violence. The symbolism also acted powerfully on the national viewing audience. Victory released among the protestors and their admirers an enormous wave of ‘sovereign feelings’, as Anthony McCann writes in Shadowlands, his bold, impressionistic chronicle of the strange events set in motion on that day…
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