Formed in March 2020, People’s Rights (also known as the People’s Rights Initiative or People’s Rights Network) is a far-right anti-government activist network led by anti-government extremist Ammon Bundy.
People’s Rights opposes any perceived government overreach based on Ammon Bundy’s belief that individuals have the right to complete and total control over their life and their property.
People’s Rights advocates for aggressive and disruptive tactics to confront anyone they perceive to be violating their rights, including engaging in standoffs, harassing and threatening opponents and disrupting public events, and creating a threat to law enforcement and public safety.
People’s Rights functions as a reactive network, mobilizing in response to perceived threats and violations of their “rights,” either by request from members or on behalf of nonmembers who they believe need “immediate help to defend [their] rights.”
While People’s Rights claims to have active chapters across the United States, most of the group’s activity has occurred in Idaho.
People’s Rights often collaborates with members of other extremist groups, including militia groups, CSPOA, the Oath Keepers, sovereign citizens and Patriot Prayer, among others. Some People’s Rights members are also members of these groups themselves.
People’s Rights members have been arrested for a wide range of crimes. Several members were arrested for participating in the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
People’s Rights is a far-right anti-government organization that opposes any perceived government overreach based on founder Ammon Bundy’s belief that individuals have the right to complete and total control over their life and property. People’s Rights claims membership in all fifty states through loosely coordinated regional groups that are ostensibly designed to rapidly mobilize anywhere in the country, although, in practice, organized activities have primarily occurred in the Pacific Northwest.
Anti-government extremists launched the earliest outcry against pandemic responses. Ammon Bundy formed People’s Rights in 2020 in response to COVID-19 mitigation efforts implemented by Idaho Governor Brad Little. On March 26, 2020, Bundy organized a meeting in Emmett, Idaho, which was attended by roughly two dozen people. There, Bundy outlined his intentions to protest Governor Little’s stay-at-home order, which he believed was unconstitutional, and to organize an opposition network to coordinate legal and political efforts and even respond physically if necessary.
This was not Bundy’s first foray into organizing opposition to governmental policies; he has a long history of anti-government extremist activity, including engaging in several armed standoffs against the federal government.
In 2014, Ammon, his father, Cliven Bundy, and other family members organized an armed standoff against the federal government over its response to years of unpaid grazing fees owed by Cliven. For two decades, Cliven refused to pay the required fee for grazing his cattle on Bureau of Land Management-owned land near Bunkerville, Nevada, falsely claiming that the federal government had no right to manage the land. When the Bureau of Land Management attempted to remove Bundy’s cattle, Cliven and his supporters blocked their efforts, instigating an armed standoff that lasted roughly two weeks. As a result of the standoff, the Bureau of Land Management effort was suspended, and Cliven, Ammon and Ryan Bundy – as well as two supporters – were arrested in 2016 on sixteen felony charges. However, after years of court proceedings, the charges were dismissed, and the Bundys faced no legal consequences. The Bundys still have not paid the grazing fees.
Less than two years later, in January 2016, Ammon led an armed occupation of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in support of two ranchers convicted for setting fires on federal land. The occupation – which attracted a variety of anti-government and other right-wing extremists – lasted 40 days. Ammon and his brother Ryan were arrested, along with 24 others. Ammon’s charges included assault on federal officers, obstruction of justice and conspiracy; the case ultimately ended in a mistrial in 2018, allowing Ammon to continue to organize without facing significant legal consequences.
Following these actions – and having escaped legal consequences – Bundy and his newly formed People’s Rights Network engaged in numerous protests related to COVID-19-related mandates and closures throughout 2020. Most notably, on August 24, 2020, Bundy and his followers, many of whom were armed, occupied the Idaho State Capitol auditorium during a special session to protest COVID-19 mandates. The occupation ended after Bundy and three others were arrested for trespassing. Bundy attempted to return to the Capitol the next day and was arrested a second time. Bundy was found guilty of one count of trespassing and one count of delaying an officer and was sentenced to one year of probation and a monetary fine.
Bundy and the People’s Rights Network take an extremist stance on individual rights, claiming that no person or government can interfere with an individual’s choices and that individuals have exclusive and total control of their property, including their homes, livestock and families. People’s Rights members oppose any government action they deem tyrannical. While People’s Rights was formed in response to COVID-19 restrictions, its activity has since expanded to include any perceived violations of rights, including federal government decisions on land and water usage – such as the curtailing of water in irrigation projects during a severe drought in Oregon’s Klamath Basin in 2021; police actions targeting People’s Rights members; and government involvement in what members consider to be “personal” matters, such as child welfare cases or medical decisions with which People’s Rights members disagreed.
Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights members argue that county sheriffs can determine the constitutionality of a law and therefore refuse to enforce certain decisions. For example, when considering his own legal troubles, Bundy stated that “the only agent that has been given power by people to use force to defend a right is the County Sheriff.” However, Bundy and People’s Rights oppose any decision by any level of law enforcement that does not align with their narrow understanding of individual rights and willingly turn against law enforcement, including local sheriffs, upon disagreement.
People’s Rights members often engage with and interact directly with other far-right and conspiracy-minded figures and ideologies. For example, in May 2022, Ammon Bundy was interviewed by Qanon influencer RedPill78, and in October 2022, Bundy was a guest on a podcast hosted by antisemitic QAnon influencer Scott McKay. This is not limited to Bundy. Rank and file members of People’s Rights also exhibit a range of conspiratorial and anti-government beliefs. Anti-vaccination rhetoric is common on the People’s Rights network’s “newsroom” boards, along with misinformation and conspiracy theories related to colloidal silver, hydroxychloroquine, election integrity, the Illuminati, Rothschild banks, the secret space program, “white genocide” and forced adoptions by Child Protective Services. For example, newsroom posts included links to an Alex Jones interview with conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin, who warned people to “Beware False Leaders in the Fight Against the Globalists,” and a post claiming that “video footage surface[d] of CDC official calling for WHITE GENOCIDE to eliminate vaccine resistance.”
Membership and Structure
People’s Rights claims to have 65,000 members, but their actual membership actively involved appears to be much lower, with only a small number of individuals posting on People’s Rights’ message boards or engaging in real-world protests and meetings.
However, People’s Rights can still mobilize dozens of members for in-person gatherings in a short time, especially if Bundy’s name is involved. For example, at a recent demonstration, People’s Rights drew roughly forty members to protest a Gem County arrest warrant against Ammon Bundy.
People’s Rights structure consists of loosely connected networks divided by geographic region. There is limited top-down coordination. Day-to-day operation is organized by local leadership – including State Assistants, Area Assistants, and Field Assistants – who coordinate actions and communicate via the People’s Rights website and through direct communication with members. People's Rights does not have a notable presence on social media platforms, instead relying on ham radio and mass text messages to reach its supporters and coordinate actions.
Tactics and Recent Activities
People’s Rights supports organized defense against perceived rights violations, even to the point of fantasizing about using violence. Bundy claims People’s Rights activities are purely defensive and focused on protecting individual’s rights from government overreach. Still, his willingness to go to extreme limits is evident as People’s Rights actions frequently instigate and inflame tense situations. Bundy, who has a history of organizing and participating in violent standoffs, said at a 2021 event in Utah, “We do not instigate, we do not go and try to force something to change that is not going to change. We defend, if then at that point they push it to the point where we have to defend ourselves enough that they call it a civil war, then it is justified.” To this end, People’s Rights members host firearms training and are often armed at protests.
People’s Rights mobilizations tend to follow a similar pattern. First, if People’s Rights members determine that action is needed, the local People’s Rights network is notified through mass texts, posts on the People’s Rights’ website, and HAM radio broadcasts. At that point, People’s Rights frequently employs consistent tactics, including doxing opponents, protesting at offices and homes, and occupying locations until they are removed, often forcibly.
For example, in April 2020, Meridian, Idaho, resident Sara Brady was arrested for trespassing at a closed playground and violating stay-at-home orders. In response, Bundy published the personal addresses of several Idaho officials, including Governor Little, Idaho Health and Welfare Director Dave Jeppeson and the police officer who arrested Brady. He then organized roughly 40 followers to protest outside the arresting officer’s home. Later that year, in further protest of COVID preventative measures, Bundy and his supporters interrupted Health District meetings and protested outside the homes of local health officials and the Boise County Commissioner, leading to multiple arrests.
During a special session of the Idaho Legislature on August 24, 2020, discussing COVID prevention measures, Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights members, some of whom were armed, occupied the gallery above the House floor. People’s Rights members tore signs advising social distancing, destroyed dividers, and broke down the gallery door. The Speaker of the House allowed the crowd to stay in the gallery for the day but closed the hall for the next day’s session. On August 25, Bundy and three other People’s Rights members returned to the Capitol and were arrested when they refused to vacate, with Bundy forcing officers to wheel him out handcuffed to a rolling chair. Bundy was served a no-trespass order but returned to the Capitol on August 26, where he was arrested again. Bundy was found guilty of trespassing and resisting arrest but was only sentenced to time served, community service, and a fine.
On June 8, 2023, People’s Rights members protested at the Gem County Sheriff’s Office and City Hall in response to an outstanding warrant for Ammon Bundy’s arrest for refusing to respond to a lawsuit by St. Luke’s Hospital. People’s Rights members vandalized vehicles belonging to the Gem County Sheriff’s Department and an Idaho State Trooper and chalked messages on the sidewalk, including “PEACE OR WAR: YOU DECIDE.”
People’s Rights members caused multiple incidents around hospitals responding to requests over disputed medical decisions. On January 29, 2021, PR members caused a lockdown at Legacy Salmon Creek Hospital when the hospital required a patient to take a COVID-19 test. Fifteen to twenty People’s Rights members, some armed, attempted to enter the hospital and were met by law enforcement. Following a familiar pattern, the incident ended with no arrests.
Many People’s Rights members are involved with—or have expressed support for—other far-right extremist groups and movements, including sovereign citizens, Oath Keepers and militia groups. For example, on March 13, 2023, People’s Rights members promoted and participated in a vigil for Chase Allan, a sovereign citizen who was shot and killed by police while allegedly going for his gun during a traffic stop in Farmington, Utah. Speakers at the vigil included June Reese, who headed local People’s Rights efforts to pack county commissioner meetings in 2021, and Victoria Dortzbach, People’s Rights organizer for Utah District 3.
Meanwhile, BJ Soper, the People’s Rights State Assistant for Oregon, is a coordinator for the Oregon Oath Keepers and is head of the Central Oregon Constitutional Guard, a militia-style far-right group. Angela Clemons, the group’s Arkansas State Assistant, organized a fundraiser for Schaeffer Cox, an Alaska militia leader sentenced to over 25 years in federal prison on weapons and conspiracy charges in connection with a 2010 plot to kill law enforcement officers and judges.
It is important to note that in many cases, it is the “victims of government” supported by Bundy and People’s Rights who are themselves responsible for their plights, while the group itself often further escalates the situation. In a July 2020 incident, Sean Anderson, an anti-government extremist, was arrested after initiating a high-speed chase after a traffic stop and firing at officers with a sawed-off shotgun. After Anderson's arrest, Bundy and around 40 People's Rights members staged a protest in front of the Lewis County Sheriff's Department. Bundy knew Anderson well, as Anderson had been one of the last holdouts at Bundy's 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur Federal Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.
People’s Rights notably used a range of harassment tactics in a March 2022 case in which “Baby Cyrus,” the grandchild of Bundy associate Diego Rodriguez, was removed from his parents' custody for malnutrition and placed in the temporary care of St. Luke’s Hospital in Boise, Idaho. Bundy and People’s Rights members flooded the hospital with calls, assembled outside in protest, and blocked ambulance bays, forcing the hospital to lock down. Bundy was arrested for trespassing and was later sued by St. Luke’s in May 2022 for defamation and invasion of privacy for publicly sharing information about the doctors and medical staff.
Bundy has refused to cooperate with the legal proceedings, threatened law enforcement and skipped court appearances. On April 24, 2023, Bundy called for a People’s Rights mobilization to his home to prevent his arrest. Members blocked the road to Bundy’s home and refused entrance to sheriff’s deputies attempting to serve the warrant.
Then, on June 8, People’s Rights members protested at the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, vandalizing police vehicles with threats. Bundy and Rodriguez refused to attend the trial and were found in default, with an Idaho jury awarding St. Luke’s $52.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages to be paid by Bundy, Rodriguez, People’s Rights, Ammon Bundy for Governor, and Freedom Man Press/Freedom Man PAC (Diego Rodriguez’s organization). On August 11, 2023, Ammon Bundy was arrested for contempt of court, though he was released two days later on August 13th after posting his $10,000 bond. In response to Bundy's arrest, roughly 20 People's Rights members and Bundy supporters protested at the Gem County sheriff's office, and one, Garth Gaylord, protested at the sheriff's home.
Making political inroads
Bundy and People’s Rights members have run for party, local and state political offices across the Pacific Northwest. In 2022, Bundy mounted an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in Idaho, running on a far-right platform that included eliminating abortion, government welfare and federal land.
On his campaign website, Bundy claimed that he was running for Governor “because we know that the Federal Government under Joe Biden and the existing establishment will continue their onslaught against the people, and we simply can’t afford to have leadership in our state back down and comply with federal tyranny.”
Bundy initially ran as a Republican but switched affiliations to run as an Independent, claiming the Idaho Republican party was “corrupt and wicked.” Bundy finished third in the general election, receiving around 100,000 votes.
Other members of People’s Rights have run for local and party offices, with varying degrees of success:
In a 2023 special election, BJ Soper, the Oregon-based People’s Rights area assistant, ran for Redmond Area Parks and Recreation District director, finishing third.
In the November 2022 organizational election, People’s Rights members and supporters won control of the Deschutes County GOP leadership, winning positions as chair, vice chair, secretary, and treasurer. Scott Stuart, elected chair, previously emailed a local school board member, stating that “[Oregon Governor] Brown and her Clowns are committing treason. I’m praying God will allow the public gallows to return for these evil people who have committed crimes against humanity.”
In 2020, Nicholas Ramlow, People’s Rights’ state administrator for Montana, unsuccessfully ran as a Libertarian for Montana House of Representatives District 7.
People’s Rights members have been arrested for a wide range of crimes, ranging from disturbing the peace and trespassing to aggravated assault, threatening law enforcement and assault with a deadly weapon. Despite a pattern of criminal activity by Ammon Bundy and People’s Rights members, they have largely avoided sizable legal consequences, often receiving short sentences.
Meridian, Idaho, March 12, 2022 – Local law enforcement arrested Ammon Bundy for misdemeanor trespassing at St. Luke’s Hospital during a People’s Rights protest against the involvement of St. Luke’s in the “Baby Cyrus” child welfare case. Bundy pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail but served only 12, with the rest suspended.
Boise, Idaho, April 8, 2021 – Ammon Bundy was arrested twice on the same day for trespassing at the Idaho Statehouse, violating his year-long ban on entering the building after his August 2020 arrests. Bundy was found guilty on one count of trespassing and delaying an officer but was sentenced to time served, a fine and one year of probation.
Boise, Idaho, March 15, 2021 – Ammon Bundy and Aaron Von Schmidt were arrested for failing to appear at their jury trial for their previous arrests at the Idaho Capitol on August 25, 2020, and for refusing to wear masks in the courthouse in violation of an Idaho State Supreme Court order. The Ada County judge ordered mediation for these charges. While attempting to prevent Bundy and Von Schmidt’s arrest, two People’s Rights members, Casey Baker and Garth Gaylord, got into a physical confrontation with police. Baker was arrested for felony battery on law enforcement and resisting and obstructing officers, while Gaylord was cited for resisting and obstructing officers. Baker was found guilty but did not attend his sentencing hearing, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Las Vegas, Nevada, February 23, 2021 – Joshua Alexander Martinez, the People’s Rights Nevada director, was arrested for allegedly making death threats and harassing a local police detective on social media. After Martinez was arrested in 2019 for unlawfully possessing a weapon after a previous felony, he threatened the Las Vegas officer responsible for the arrest and the Chief Deputy district attorney, threatening to “make his life a living hell” and hoping the officer “dies a slow and painful death.” Posts on the People’s Rights website called for protests at the trial, claiming Martinez was a “political prisoner.”
Washington, DC, January 6, 2021 – Federal authorities arrested two People’s Rights members for their role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January 2021. Pam Hemphill, who also participated in the occupation of the Idaho State Capitol in August 2020, was subsequently sentenced to 60 days behind bars and three years' probation on charges of parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building. Yvonne St. Cyr, who pleaded not guilty to two felony counts of obstructing and interfering with law enforcement during a civil disorder and four misdemeanor charges, was convicted and is currently awaiting sentencing.
Boise, Idaho, December 8, 2020 – Four People’s Rights members were arrested during an Idaho Central District Board of Health meeting as part of a People’s Rights organized protest. Yvonne St. Cyr was arrested for trespassing at the Central District Health office, while Robert Jones, Susan Lang and David Pettinger were arrested for disturbing the peace by protesting outside the home of a Central District Board of Health member. Pettinger, a People’s Rights Area Assistant, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of probation. Jones and Lang were convicted and Jones was sentenced to six months in prison; Lang was sentenced to seven days, with two credited for time served.
Boise, Idaho, August 25-26, 2020 – People’s Rights members, some armed, occupied the House Gallery at the Idaho State Capitol to protest the Idaho Legislature special session on COVID-19 prevention efforts. Ammon Bundy was arrested for resisting and obstructing officers and trespassing, while People’s Rights members Aaron Von Schmidt, Jill Watts, and Bryan Bowermaster were arrested for trespassing. Ammon returned the next day in defiance of a no-trespass order and was arrested again. Bundy was found guilty and sentenced to two days of community service and a fine.
Kamiah, Idaho, July 18, 2020 – Sean Anderson was involved in a high-speed chase after he fled a traffic stop two days after attending a Bundy event on July 16. When confronted by police, Anderson fired a double-barreled shotgun at the officer. The officer returned fire, hitting Anderson and taking him into custody. Anderson was sentenced to 18 years in prison for felony aggravated assault on a peace officer and use of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime.