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June 13, 2021

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With a wink and nod, activist plans BundyFest! to protest rancher Cliven Bundy

Cliven Bundy Supporters


Cattle graze by the Virgin River near Bunkerville on Tuesday, April 15, 2014.

Last week, the standoff between renegade rancher Cliven Bundy and the federal government caught the world’s attention.

This fall, Bunkerville could be the site of a monthlong anti-Bundy festival dubbed BundyFest! At least, that’s what organizer, activist and author Sean Shealy is promoting on the Internet with a wink and a nod.

The BundyFest! logistics seem outlandish. Shealy says there will be 240 bands playing 24 hours a day between Sept. 5 and Oct. 5. Here’s part of his pitch: No permits required. Camp absolutely anywhere. Full nudity not a problem.

Although the Bundys were not available for comment, Shealy says the festival proves a larger point about Bundy’s battle.

"For years, we paid permitting fees to hold Burning Man," read a Facebook page created for the event. "But now, Cliven Bundy has shown us a NEW WAY! ABSOLUTE FREEDOM! Bundy has declared the entire area surrounding Bundy Ranch as a TOTALLY RULES-FREE ZONE! ANYTHING GOES! WOO-HOO!!!"

BundyFest! quickly spread through social media and alternative news outlets. The news has been shared on blogs, and SPIN Magazine even wrote a piece about the festival. The Sun caught up with Shealy through Facebook. A transcript of the interview is below. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity, grammar and brevity.

Where did the idea for BundyFest! come from?

I am an activist and writer, with a somewhat substantial background in marketing and promotion. I tend to excel at analogies. If someone shows me black, I blow white up all out of proportion to it so that the contrast can be clearly seen. I am the author of the novel "Killing Limbaugh," for example, which was inspired by the tendency of right-wing radio to move some deranged fans to violence. It is an equal-but-opposite reaction, in order to demonstrate a point.

Will BundyFest! actually happen?

Well, this is day two. To use an analogy, we're on the launch pad, the engines are all firing and everything is nominal, with maybe eight seconds left in the countdown. I am not certain that I could stop this at this point if I wanted to. It has captured the zeitgeist and taken on a life of its own.

Are there any anxieties about going to a place inhabited by armed militiamen?

We'll deal with security as we go. We have in fact, invited the militias. They will be needed. They are defending the principle that this land is open and free to all to use however we wish — and that includes BundyFest! We will need them to hold off the BLM and local law enforcement throughout this festival, just as they showed up for Cliven Bundy. It is the exact same principle. There cannot be one set of laws for Bundy and a different set for the rest of us. If the militias are acting on principle, then they will defend our rights, as well.

On the reaction to BundyFest!

People were exasperated by the support for Bundy and didn't know how to counter his narrative. It seems, at a glance — and that is how most people get their news — to be a classic David vs. Goliath story. Everybody loves those. And virtually everyone — left, right and center — is annoyed to no end by the federal government, for all kinds of different reasons, so it resonated. But those, like me, who are interested in the law and the Constitution (not just waving it around, but actually reading it) and the principles of democracy, when we looked at this, we thought, "Hey, wait a minute. So ... all you have to do is show up with an arsenal, and you know, thwart the law and democracy? What does that look like down the road?" That is a very frightening path, and it should be frightening to everybody, including Bundy's supporters. BundyFest! gave people a way to express the argument that the rules have to apply to everyone equally. … The people who know me are used to me being involved in various political efforts. Not many people have my phone number, either. I've got excited messages on Facebook, though. I don't really get super excited, or super down about anything anymore. I'm just placid and peaceful at this point in my life. I'm enjoying this, but it doesn't seem much different than any other day.

On his connection to Burning Man.

Some blog, late last night, announced that I was "the organizer of Burning Man." Several other blogs, and then some real news outlets, picked this up and ran with it. I'm crafting a correction. Here is the first (rough) draft: Dear Journalists: Thank you so much for your kind interest in BundyFest! A quick point of correction (for those who may not not yet be familiar with the intricacies of "Google"): I am NOT "the organizer of Burning Man." When I used the word "we" in conjunction with Burning Man, it is because I consider those desert artists and freedom-loving participants to be part of my culture. I have never BEEN to Burning Man … In fact, when I refer to Cliven Bundy's issue with the federal government, I also refer to "we," because Cliven, and I, and you, and all of us, are in this same boat together.

How are you going to fund and organize BundyFest! going forward?

Kickstarter, most likely. I am a conceptualist. I'm going to need a lot of help. And it looks like we're on our way. On that subject, I do want to mention one thing: I've launched this whole project from my living room, wearing a bathrobe. This is absolutely THE BEST time in the history of man for the advancement of democracy and the First Amendment. It cannot be overstated how revolutionary this is. Some people say, "The government is out to get everybody, and control everything!" Well, if they did that by giving us the Internet, they are TERRIBLE planners.

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