CEDAR CITY – U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart addressed several issues related to the Bundys and the Constitution during a town hall meeting Tuesday night.
Before opening the floor to questions, Stewart started the meeting at the Cedar City Aquatic Center by comparing the current political environment to a fork in the road running in opposite directions and emphasized the importance of “choosing wisely.”
“I can say this is the most important and critical time we’ve had since 1860. I really believe it’s that important and we have to get this right,” he said. “Once we run down this road it will be very hard to get back over here because those paths are so very far apart.”
Many of the questions to Stewart primarily focused on issues concerning freedom, the Constitution and government infringement. One audience member shared his feelings at length about what he perceived as a violation of constitutional rights.
“My worry is there is always some kind of panic. There is always some kind of crisis, in which we need to spend money,” one audience member said. “My concern right now is not the next virus, the next nuclear war. My biggest concern right now, and I think I speak for a lot of people here, is my rights, my sovereignty. That’s what I’m worried about.”
Several others in the room echoed his sentiments.
Stewart responded to the cries for change, in part, by consoling the audience, saying their feelings were not unique but ones shared by many throughout the country.
“Those rights are being taken from us and absorbed into Washington, D.C., and it’s so slow we don’t even realize it,” Stewart said. “The infringement on our liberties – I think our founding fathers would roll over in their graves right now.”
Lauralee Sorensen shared her family’s experience with the Bureau of Land Management, becoming visibly emotional recounting how 30 federal agents swarmed Delta Thursday to arrest Dave Bundy. Bundy is married to Lauralee Sorensen’s sister and is also the son of Cliven Bundy. He was arrested for his alleged participation in the 2014 armed standoff between rancher Cliven Bundy and federal authorities who were trying to remove his cows from public land.
“At the elementary school where children were arriving at school, there were 30 federal agents who swarmed him (Dave Bundy) and threw flash bombs at him and surrounded him, pointing guns at him,” she said.
Mack Sorensen described for the congressman how BLM agents at one point allegedly harassed his daughter, Lauralee, who is physically disabled and in a wheel chair, for communicating with Bundy and her sister.
These kinds of scenarios are only increasing in recent years, Stewart said, pointing to several other incidents where the federal arm of law enforcement overstepped its boundaries.
Stewart called attention to a new bill he said he and Rep. Jason Chaffetz will introduce next week when the House returns to session that would strip law enforcement responsibilities from any agency under the Department of Interior including the BLM.
Stewart introduced a similar bill in 2014 called the Regulatory Agency Demilitarization Act that would have stemmed the trend of federal regulatory agencies developing SWAT-like teams.
The Republican congressman told the audience while he can appreciate the right of the people to protest and demonstrate against their government, he urged citizens to abstain from turning to violence.
“It’s one thing to have a protest and another to have a protest where they bring guns,” he said.
Stewart is up for reelection this year and is being challenged by Democratic hopeful Charlene Albarran.
A second town hall meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday in St. George at City Hall, 175 E. 200 North. There is also one planned Thursday at 7 p.m. in Ephraim at the Founders Hall at Snow College, 1550 College Avenue East.
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