Nearly 400 Natives rally in opposition of Trump and Noem’s visit to Mount Rushmore
KEYSTONE – U.S. President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign-stop here at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial on July 3 provoked a rally of some 400 Native Americans and allies, who seized the opportunity to remind him he was trespassing on sacred Black Hills Indian treaty land stolen in violation of the Constitution.
“What do we want? Land back. When do we want it? Now!” was the prevailing chant of the multitude.
It succeeded in drawing worldwide attention to the Constitutional cause by blocking an access route to the memorial, delaying some of the more than 7,000 Trump campaign supporters who had paid to attend the private event at the public venue.
“Mount Rushmore is on stolen Lakota land and its very existence is a symbol of white supremacy,” said Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of the Rapid City-based national non-profit NDN Collective, which initiated the action.
“In opposing the ongoing desecration of our sacred land and asking for return of Lakota lands where Mount Rushmore is situated, we’re not saying anything that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents haven’t already said,” Tilsen noted.
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With a classic show of civil disobedience, demonstrators disabled tires on several late-model white vans parked across all four lanes of the blacktop highway connecting the town of Keystone to the national park visitors center, then stood by, singing, shouting and waving banners, as well as an Oglala Sioux tribal nation flag, for four hours until law enforcement mobilized to suppress the action.
Helicopters repeated flyovers as Pennington County Sheriff’s deputies, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Homeland Security, National Guard, U.S. Secret Service, USDA Forest Service, park rangers, police in riot gear, and other armed personnel joined forces to tow the vans, clear the roadblock, and arrest dissidents.
Covering the activity for independent Pine Ridge Indian Reservation Radio KILI, Arlo Iron Cloud reported shots fired toward the feet of rally participants. Law enforcement insisted he leave his hillside observation post and move to the highway area surrounded by weaponized professionals, even when he objected that he was working media.
Tensions rose as patrol members donned gas masks. No tear gas discharges were verified but some of the unarmed demonstrators were sprayed with mace, according to legal observers. “Every conflict was police-initiated,” said legal observer Bruce Ellison, an attorney on NDN Collective’s legal team.
The team’s conversations with sheriff and other local officers in advance of the direct action aimed to assure law enforcement that no use of force would be necessary as plans were for peaceful assembly; if outside armed reinforcements had not arrived, the road would have been cleared in half the time, Ellison observed.
“Some of the over-reaction we were seeing was just a tip-off for the Keystone XL Pipeline,” he said, referring to fears that the state will repress civil rights of native oil pipeline fighters, such as Tilsen, if building continues.
Eventually, from somewhere near one of several formations of camouflage-suited and shield-carrying troopers, a loudspeaker announcement warned four times, “This is an unlawful assembly. Disperse immediately.” Verbal retorts ensued: “You are unlawful. Why don’t you disperse?”
After many demonstrators avoided arrest by clearing out, ranks of uniformed agents advanced on the remaining targets and zip-tied their hands behind their backs, taking them into custody -- all to taunts of “You stole this land” but no resistance.
A transport van escorted at least a dozen detainees from there to the Pennington County office complex for booking and jail. They were released on July 4, except for Tilsen, who was held until his bond hearing July 6.
Tilsen was released on $2,000 cash bond to face criminal charges of second-degree robbery, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence, and simple assault of a law enforcement officer, which carries a maximum two-year sentence.
He also faces a misdemeanor charges of unlawful assembly and impeding traffic, which have one-year maximum jail penalty, as well as petty misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct, with a maximum 30-day sentence.
Contact Talli Nauman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright permission Native Sun News Today
Note: Thumbnail photo by Andrea Hanks / White House
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