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Human rights experts concerned about arrests at July 3 protest

A UN report calls the NDN Collective CEO a “human rights defender”
Published: Dec. 17, 2020 at 3:03 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - On July 3, President Donald Trump visited Mount Rushmore for the Monument’s fireworks show.

En route to Mount Rushmore, NDN Collective, an Indigenous nonprofit, staged a protest that led to multiple arrests, including organizer and NDN CEO, Nick Tilsen.

Recently, experts from the United Nations’ Human Rights Council expressed concerns about Tilsen’s arrest and charges--he is facing three felonies and four misdemeanors.

Some details of the report were incorrect, such as the date of the protest.

The report refers to Tilsen as a “human rights defender.”

It also called for the United States to “ensure that Mr. Tilsen’s due process rights are respected during the criminal prosecution and recall the obligation to ensure equal protection of the law without discrimination.”

The experts who raised their concerns were special rapporteurs from the UN’s Human Rights Council.

Tilsen initially faced five charges, including two felonies, second-degree robbery and a simple assault on a public officer for taking a shield from an officer during the protest. Two more charges were later added, including a felony simple assault on another officer.

Over the summer, Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom told Black Hills Fox News that an attorney representing NDN did reach out to law enforcement to discuss how the protest would be conducted. Thom said he was assured the protest would remain peaceful but says promises were not kept.

“If they don’t intend to keep their word, don’t reach out to us and have those discussions just so you can say you had those discussions with no intent on keeping your word,” said Thom. “I mean that generally about any group.”

We spoke with Tilsen over the phone Thursday afternoon, and he said the Native Community has faced challenges and harassment from law enforcement since the protest.

”When we speak up, when Native people speak our voices, people are threatened by that,” said Tilsen. “People are threatened by us speaking our truth. And we, as Indigenous people, we’re not going to tolerate harassment. And, anybody in the law enforcement that wants to come and harass us, then watch what you’re going to run into, because we’re going to fight to protect our rights.”

Tilsen is scheduled for a motions hearing Friday morning.

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