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Lakota People's Law Project: Statement on media settlement with #MAGA teen #IPMDC19

The following is a statement from the Lakota People's Law Project in connection with an incident at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., in January 2019.

Other than the Native press, no media outlets sought comment from organizers of the Indigenous Peoples March when CNN settled a libel suit this week brought by Kentucky high school student Nick Sandmann after his confrontation with Native American activist Nathan Phillips last year.

As the March was created to amplify Indigenous voices on matters that concern Indigenous people, here’s a joint statement from organizers of the Indigenous Peoples March and the Lakota People’s Law Project:

A painting of Nathan Phillips by Bobby Von Martin. Photo courtesy of the artist: Choctaw artist overcame hardship and reconnected with tribal culture

As no details concerning CNN’s decision to settle Nick Sandmann’s defamation lawsuit against them have been released, it’s difficult to assess the implications of the network’s decision not to fight in court.

It is important to note that a Kentucky federal judge decided last summer to dismiss Sandmann’s suit against The Washington Post, citing First Amendment concerns. Though the suit has since been reopened, it should be noted that Sandmann has only been granted the ability to seek discovery surrounding three of an original 33 alleged libelous charges.

Regardless of any legal outcomes, the smirk seen around the world remains a poignant symbol of the well-documented bigotry of President Donald Trump and many of his followers.

The United States is losing moral capital the world over right now at an alarming rate. That trend must be reversed immediately if we hope to remain a force for good in the world, and that begins with robust media coverage of public acts of racism.

We encourage interested parties to review our detailed rebuttal of the lawsuit filed by Nick Sandmann against The Washington Post. The arguments made there also apply to the specious suit settled by CNN.

The Lakota People's Law Project operates under the 501(c)(3) Romero Institute, a nonprofit law and policy center.

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