This past week, the Alliance for a Better Utah joined fellow members of the Ballots Not Bullets Coalition — a group of organizations from across the country concerned by the increasing use and threat of violence to influence public policy — in denouncing the possibility of armed confrontation in response to the proposed Bears Ears National Monument in southern Utah.
The monument was proposed by five sovereign tribal nations comprising the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition and is now supported by 26 tribal governments, many local citizens, and others.
Regrettably, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have both recently made ominous statements foretelling potential violence if the Obama administration designates the monument.
Members of the Coalition issued the following responses:
“Implied violence is not how we make public lands policy in the United States,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, who was on the ground counter-protesting the armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January. “By suggesting rather than denouncing possible violence, Senator Hatch joins the conspiring ranks of Cliven Bundy and his assault-rifle-clad militia thugs who would seize America’s public lands at any cost, laws and democracy be damned.”
“It’s very disappointing to see Senator Hatch and Representative Chaffetz warning our government about violence while doing nothing to make it clear to their constituents that such violence would be both illegal and extraconstitutional,” said Josh Kanter, chairman of the board for Alliance for a Better Utah. “As elected leaders, if they fail to educate Utahns about the peaceful methods we use to redress grievances under our Constitution, they will be partially responsible for any armed confrontation that might take place.”
“There are many people of good faith—at the federal, state and local level—working to resolve this issue at this time,” said John Horning, executive director of WildEarth Guardians. “There is absolutely no reason that anyone should even be considering violence. Such conflict would only serve to further degrade this historic site and put the lives of our men and women in law enforcement at risk.”
“It’s shocking and dangerous to see this kind of fear-mongering by elected officials,” said Shelley Silbert, executive director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. “These attitudes encourage the type of violence-promoting stunts that we are seeing in southern Utah. We treasure our democracy in this country— elected officials should respect the legislative and legal processes without validating violence.”