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."
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Oxford is the least affordable city in the UK, where houses cost 11 times local salaries
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Space debris orbiting Earth to be destroyed with giant lasers fired from Australia
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 2 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 3 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks
£1000 per month: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ban...
£50000 - £57000 per annum: Pro-Recruitment Group: Leading West End law firm is...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Cardiff: Randstad Education Cardiff require a W...
Negotiable: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education is urgently recruit...