Nearly 200 protestors, including many Native and Black Lives Matter activists, clashed with sheriff’s deputies and National Guard soldiers Friday just outside the entrance to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota during a visit to the monument by President Donald Trump.
The protestors began protesting shortly after 3 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, holding signs and singing Lakota songs as a small group of sheriff’s deputies stood watch. But around 5:30 p.m., the protestors set up a roadblock outside the monument’s entrance, using several vans to shut down the road, including one that had a flat tire. National Guard soldiers arrived about an hour later.
One woman who broadcast a livestream on Facebook got maced while covering the event for Great Plains Action Society
. The woman kept shooting video as she fell to the ground, struggling to breathe.
“So I was maced,” she said as she stood up. “I’m done for now.”
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Candi Brings Plenty, indigenous justice organizer for ACLU South Dakota, also broadcast from the scene
on the day before Independence Day.
“I’m a legal observer from ACLU South Dakota,” she said as she shot footage of a line of National Guard soldiers holding shields and facing down protestors.
The protestors smudged law enforcement and military service men Friday and drummed and sang songs.
They went to the Black Hills to protest the visit by Trump at a monument that was carved into the sacred lands of the Great Sioux Nation, lands stolen in violation of a treaty with the U.S. government. And they went there to protest the men whose faces are carved into the mountain – Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
Washington and Jefferson were both slave owners, and Lincoln ordered the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Minnesota after the Sioux Uprising of 1862. Roosevelt, meanwhile, once said
: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every ten are.”
Dakota activist Michael Patrick O’Connor said he came because he wanted to express his outrage at the desecration of his people’s sacred lands and his frustration at a president who has failed the people of America.
“I couldn’t find any reason not to be up here,” he said. “I felt like I owed it to the grandmas and grandpas, owed it to the people who suffered before us to do something and to come here because our people were gathering.”
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Chase Iron Eyes, a Lakota activist and attorney, spoke through a megaphone to the soldiers standing before protestors Friday, extolling them to remain non-violent with protestors.
At about 6:30 p.m., Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective
, told those gathered that he was negotiating with law enforcement and military leaders and said those who weren’t willing to be arrested should leave the protest site, but those who planned to stay should expect to get arrested.
Tilsen said attorneys and bail money would be available to anyone who got arrested, and he told protestors who might get arrested to reach those attorneys at: www.bhlegalfund.org.
“Today has been a proud day to be Lakota,” he said. “We shut down Mount Rushmore. We put this place on lockdown for three hours, and we did it in a good way.”
About half an hour later, a few dozen protestors remained in the middle of the road leading to Mount Rushmore, while the rest of the protestors stood on the side of the road.
Shortly after 7 p.m., law enforcement began arresting protestors who remained in the road, handcuffing several men and women -- including Tilsen and Krystal Two Bulls
, a Lakota veteran -- and loading them into vans. A few minutes later, the National Guard soldiers began leaving the site, and most of the protestors began leaving as well.
Thumbnail photo of #LandBack action in Keystone, South Dakota, by Willi White, Courtesy NDN Collective
A Statement From The Tilsen Family
Good Evening Relatives, We greet you with an open heart and a warm handshake....Posted by Kimberly Tilsen-Brave Heart on Sunday, July 5, 2020
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