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October 24, 2014

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Despite blowback, militiamen stand their ground with rancher Cliven Bundy

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STEVE MARCUS

Brandon Rapolla of Springfield, Ore. poses at a camp near Bunkerville Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

Cliven Bundy Supporters

Reid Hendricks of Camden, Tenn., and Jim (no last name provided) of Las Vegas take up a position on a hill by Cliven Bundy's ranch near Bunkerville on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Hendricks is a former Marine (honorably discharged) and has worked as a police officer and a high school history teacher, he said. Launch slideshow »

Cliven Bundy’s racist comments about African-Americans and slavery in a New York Times story have not deterred militiamen who descended on Bunkerville to battle the Bureau of Land Management.

"It's not going to change my stance of supporting him," said Brandon Rapolla, a 39-year-old concrete mixer and militiaman profiled in a recent story in The Sunday. "We’re not going to be on the same page with everyone."

Rapolla was one of hundreds of militiamen drawn to Bundy’s ranch about 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas to defend Bundy and halt a BLM roundup of Bundy's cattle. Though Rapolla returned to Eugene, Ore., he plans to return to Bunkerville in the next two weeks.

A Pacific Islander, the former Marine said he had been a minority his entire life, but Bundy’s comments are not what Bundy’s supporters care about.

"That’s not our focus here at all," said Rapolla, who argues he’s fighting the government to prevent it from enslaving the American people. "It’s part of misinformation to maintain the divide … Things like this will be put out there to discredit Bundy."

There’s a military term for this type of manipulation, Rapolla said: psychological operations or PSYOPS. That’s what military personnel call any operation that uses carefully selected information to influence an audience’s emotions and behavior.

"It’s PSYOPS, bro," Rapolla said. "It’s a weapon to create division."

Rapolla argues the New York Times – and all media – took Bundy's comments out of context: "Black people under government aren't any better off."

John O’Neil, another militiaman from Montana, doesn’t believe the media reports either. "He didn’t say what they said he said," O'Neil said.

The 74-year-old cowboy has spent nearly two weeks living in a camp near the Bundy Ranch. Most of the news O'Neil gets about Bundy comes through his wife back home in Kalispell.

"We haven’t had a chance to read everything that’s out there," O’Neil said. "It’s not worth the energy."

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