Native American activists protest injustices, demand reform
Activists demand justice and reform
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Fourth of July is traditionally seen as a celebration of freedom, but the holiday took on a new meaning Tuesday with Native American activists holding a protest to bring to light what they say are injustices in the community.
Marching from East Boulevard to the Rapid City Public Safety Building, activists and protesters gathered to demand reform in law enforcement agencies as well as address how schools are policed after what some said was a brutal year for the Native American community.
“We would like to stop the killing of indigenous people by police. We would like to stop the overcriminalization of protests. We would like to see security resource officers out of the schools. We would like to see more support for native children in the schools, more solutions just beyond criminalizing them,” said Tom Swiftbird, a protester at the march.
“We’ve watched over the last year especially. I mean, I think this is the worst that it’s ever been. We’ve seen a lot of native men killed by the police department,” said Native Sun News editor Ernestine Anukasan.
For Trinity Peoples, those deaths in the last year have affected her personally, as her brother, Barney Leroy Peoples Jr., was shot six times last year. Peoples said there could be a better way to handle situations like the ones that took her brother.
“There could’ve been lesser non-life-threatening tactics used instead of just outright shooting them,” explained Trinity Peoples, a protester at the march.
Another protester said the policing she sees in her neighborhood is inconsistently applied.
“If there are kids carrying on at Stevens nothing happens. I live over by there. Nothing happens. I call the police nothing happens day in and day out. Up in East North St., anybody does anything wrong, we have arrests,” said Annie Bachand, another protester at the march.
During the protest, justice was on the minds of many attending, but many still had hope that the justice system, after many generations, would finally treat them fairly.
“We have hope for justice because of all of the many generations of abuse that we have suffered here in Rapid City. What I mean by justice is that the court system is just the way we’re treated on the streets,” explained Jean Roach, a long time Rapid City resident.
As the protest reached the Rapid City Public Safety Building, many turned to the jail to pray for those inside, trying to instill hope in some of the inmates.
“Hope for the men and women that are incarcerated at the jail and let them know that they do matter,” said Darla Takes The Knife, a protester at the march.
While the initial thought of the protest was that it would turn violent, the people that participated remained peaceful throughout, and as the march concluded, the protestors unraveled a large banner that laid out the changes they wanted to see to the system.
The final message given at the protest was: “Time has come for the Natives to speak up for themselves,” expressed Anukasan.
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