Log-cabin 'freedom' fighters hold the law at bay
Armed backwoodsmen defy federal authority in Montana. Phil Reeves reports
Thursday 18 May 1995
The group of around five so-called "freemen", wanted on state and federal criminal charges, have set up their own "supreme court" at their makeshift headquarters near the small town of Roundup, and have issued a "citizen's declaration of war" against government officials.
Federal law enforcement authorities are reluctant to take action. Apparently they want to avoid a repetition of the debacle at Waco, Texas, or a stand- off that ends in bloodshed.
Government officials are aware that America's far right made a martyr of Randy Weaver, after federal agents laid siege to his mountain hide- out in Idaho in 1992 in a bungled military-style operation that led to the death of Weaver's wife and son.
Seven weeks ago, the local county prosecutor wrote to President Bill Clinton asking for federal assistance.
He described the freemen's ring-leaders as dangerous "terrorists", and warned the President of the rise of violent right-wing anti-government groups in America's west and mid-west.
The letter was dispatched before the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma, in which 168 people died.
But the prosecutor's staff say the President's office did not reply, indicating that the US government wishes to avoid a confrontation with militia-style groups. The fugitives are wanted for an array of charges, including threatening and impersonating police officers, tax evasion and violating gun laws.
The prosecutor, John Bohlman, of Musselshell County, who has taken to wearing a bulletproof vest after receiving threats from the men, says they are "extremely well-armed". Supplies of food, money and weaponry, including assault rifles and more than 1,000 ammunition rounds, are stashed away in their cabin, a building which tax authorities have seized for non-payment of taxes but have yet to occupy.
Federal agents are anxious to avoid a stand-off,owing to the risk that their own officers could be killed. Their hands-off approach has prompted complaints that they are encouraging far-right extremists to act in brazenly criminal manner.
There are suggestions that the federal authorities are refusing to pursue charges in order to avoid conflicts. "They could easily have charged this men with more federal offences," said a Musselshell official. When local police visited them, in the hope of making arrests, they were sent packing with blood-thirsty threats.
Similar incidents have prompted officials to complain of an outbreak of "Weaver-fever" in Montana. Three hundred miles away in the Bitterroot Valley, Calvin Greenup, the 52-year-old leader of a paramilitary anti- government group, has been holed up in his ranch for about a month, vowing to "go down shooting" if anyone attempts to arrest him.
Mr Greenup faces several state charges, including harbouring his two sons, who are also wanted men. So far officials have only managed to impound his animals - 10 elk - but have refrained from seizing him. "We will get him, but it will be at my pace," the local sheriff, Jay Printz, said.l "I don't think its worth getting anyone killed - including him."
Sheriff Printz scoffs at Mr Greenup's threats, such as: "If he gets me, he had better get me good, because I'm going to bite back." Not everyone takes him so lightly. In his letter to Mr Clinton, Mr Bohlman pointed out that when a National Guard helicopter strayed over Mr Greenup's property, the self-style militiaman summoned his followers who began to prepare to shoot down the aircraft.
In a third incident in Montana, US marshals have reportedly failed to make any move against a man in a cabin in Missoula who allegedly shot a police officer more than a year ago - an offence that would normally attract the full force of official wrath.
"We are acting with the utmost caution in these situations," said Randy Little, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in eastern Montana, "We don't want to see a repeat of past mistakes."
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should convert and not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...
£19500 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Knowledge of and ability to use...
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They pride themselves that they...
£19000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This pharmacy group are looking...