By Lauren Rozyla and Tim Zietlow
LAS VEGAS -- Tensions are growing as people in the community of Bunkerville are trying to stop federal agents from taking cattle off of public land.
During a Wednesday's night town meeting, community members came out in force to support rancher Cliven Bundy. They gave him a standing ovation when he got up to speak.
"I love you people. And I love this land, and I love freedom and liberty," Bundy told the crowd.
"I want to tell you and thank you for being brave enough to stand up for me, for my freedom, for my liberties and my land," Overton area resident Kelly Houston said.
"I openly, publicly and personally say: I stand with the Bundys," Overton area resident Laura Bledsoe said.
Resident not only showed support for the Bundy family, they also condemned the federal government for what they called heavy-handed tactics.
Earlier in the day, BLM and park rangers had tasers ready to go as they faced a few dozen protesters.
One woman claims federal officers hit her with their vehicle. A man says he was tased twice. In just a matter of minutes, the situation escalated from calm to angry with the protestors shouting and the rangers ready to respond with dogs, tasers and physical force, if needed.
At the center of this battle is the Bundy family and their herd of at least 500 head of cattle. The BLM says the cattle have been allowed to graze on the federal land illegally for the past 20 years.
"You want to tase me? Go ahead," Ammon Bundy challenged rangers.
He is the son of rancher Cliven Bundy and he claims the rangers tased him twice.
The protesters came within inches of law enforcement trying to get the BLM to leave a section of the public land. The Bundy family says it's willing to put itself in danger for their livelihood. They claim federal rangers are killing their cattle in the process of rounding them up.
"There's only one reason they have a backhoe and a dump truck up there and that is because they're cleaning up their mess from killing our animals," Ammon Bundy said.
The ranchers say this is calving season and mother cows are being separated from their babies.
"They haven't been able to feed their calves and that means the calves are starving to death," Ammon Bundy said.
The BLM has denied killing any cattle intentionally, only saying that there may be some cases where a cow would need to be euthanized.
"Get out of our state! Get out of our state!" protestors yelled.
The BLM has left the area, for now. However, not everyone left the skirmish unharmed. One of the Bundy sisters says a ranger hit her with a car which threw her to the ground.
"I'm shook up, my hand's cut, my knee's you know, banged up," Margaret Bundy-Houston said.
Although the BLM rangers are out of the area, they insist they'll be back to take all of the cattle that are on the land illegally.
In a statement released late Wednesday afternoon, the BLM and park service said in part:
"In recent days, some peaceful protests have crossed into illegal activity, including blocking vehicles associated with the gather, impeding cattle movement, and making direct and overt threats to government employees. These isolated actions that have jeopardized the safety of individuals have been responded to with appropriate law enforcement actions.
Today, a BLM truck driven by a non-law enforcement civilian employee assisting with gather operations was struck by a protester on an ATV and the truck's exit from the area was blocked by a group of individuals who gathered around the vehicle. A police dog was also kicked. Law enforcement officers attempting to protect the civilian federal employee from the attack were also threatened and assaulted. After multiple requests and ample verbal warnings, law enforcement officers deployed tasers on a protestor."
The BLM and park service also point out that they have tried to resolve the issue with Bundy for more than 20 years. They accuse him of not complying with several court orders directing him to remove his cattle from public lands.
Besides complaints of tough tactics, people at the meeting Wednesday night also said the dispute was hurting the economic well being of the area because trails are closed and armed federal agents in the area are scaring away tourists.