AMMON BUNDY, LEADER OF AN ARMED ANTI-GOVERNMENT MILITIA, SPEAKS AT A NEWS CONFERENCE AT THE ENTRANCE TO THE MALHEUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE HEADQUARTERS NEAR BURNS, OREGON JANUARY 5, 2016. (PHOTO BY ROB KERR / AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)
Ammon Bundy, the infamous leader of armed government standoffs, is out of jail—for now—on a $10,000 bond. Bundy was arrested Friday night at his son’s football fundraiser in Emmett, Idaho. Video showed a throng of sheriff’s deputies serving the cowboy-hatted provocateur an arrest warrant and leading him out in handcuffs.
Bundy’s “People’s Rights Network'' of anti-government activists immediately snapped into action and urged people to call the Gem County Sheriff’s Department to demand his release. One leader in the network posted a video of himself calling the sheriff's office: ”Let him out now,” Garth Gaylord said into a phone. “The wrath of God is upon the people if we let you do this. You better stop, or the people are coming after you.”
On Saturday night, Gaylord and others went to harass Gem County Sheriff Donnie Wunder at his home, according to the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights executive director Devin Burghart, who has been tracking the case and Bundy’s People’s Rights Network closely. Sometime in the early hours of Sunday morning, Bundy was released on bond. Bundy first made a name for himself through armed standoffs with the federal government. The first was in 2014 and lasted a month at his father Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, following a decades-long dispute with the Bureau of Land Management over whether his cattle could graze on public land without a permit. Two years later, the younger Bundy led his own 40-day standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to protest the conviction of two ranchers for arson on federal land. But Bundy’s arrest this weekend is just the latest development in a year-long saga that’s shown the loyalty of his sprawling People’s Rights Network, which he formed in 2020 around opposition to COVID-19 restrictions.
A report by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, titled “Ammon’s Army,” described the group as a “dangerous new network of militia members, anti-maskers, conspiracists, preppers, [and] anti-vaxxers,” that’s not only exploded in numbers—estimated to be over 35,000 strong—but also amassed real political power, with members taking over the state GOP in Washington and Idaho. Last November, Bundy netted 17 percent of the vote in his own long shot run for Idaho governor, and he plans to run again in 2026. Bundy’s recent arrest was ordered by a judge in mid-April after finding him in contempt of court for repeatedly flouting legal notices related to a multi-million dollar defamation suit against him and Diego Rodriguez, one of his associates. The suit stems from a series of protests in March 2022 that Bundy led outside St Luke’s Hospital in Ada County, Idaho over a child welfare case involving Rodriguez’ 10-month-old grandson. The baby was taken into state custody after health authorities found him to be suffering from severe malnourishment. Bundy and Rodriguez rallied the People’s Rights Network to protest the hospital, at one point forcing the medical facility into lockdown over security threats. (The baby was returned to his family about a week later, who, in exchange, agreed to a “measure of state oversight.”)
Bundy and Rodriguez claimed, in statements online, that the hospital was part of a shadowy government operation to steal children from Christian families and give them to LGBTQ couples to be groomed and sexually abused, The Idaho Statesman reported. In July, a jury found Bundy and Rodriguez liable for $52 million in damages. Throughout this process, Bundy has not only allegedly ignored court orders but also filed trespassing complaints against people hired to serve him legal notices, and called on his supporters to stand guard outside his home. Even Gem County Sheriff Wunder claimed he was leery about serving Bundy notices in a civil proceeding, because he was concerned about his deputies being harmed, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. Last week, one day before Bundy was arrested, he posted a video online to smack down reports that he was “holed up in my house, hiding behind a window sill with an AK-47.” Since a judge issued the arrest warrant in April, Bundy bragged in the video, he’s traveled extensively, across Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and even Mexico.Since his release, Bundy appears to remain committed to using the showdown with St Luke’s Hospital and recent arrest to continue rallying supporters to his anti-government cause and casting himself as a freedom fighter. “If you take a stand in America today, the law will not protect you,” Bundy says in a video reshared to Twitter on Sunday. “In fact, it will allow you to be crushed by those who hate this country and have lots of money and power. ‘Thanks for all the prayers,” he wrote. “I wonder if they will ever leave my family alone? This could happen to you.”