Lakota 57 verdict means “open season” on Indians

It was an infamous decision. Magistrate Judge Eric Strawn ruled on Sept. 1 that Trace O’Connell, was not guilty of disorderly conduct when he poured beer, threw objects, yelled racist statements  and physically threatened young Lakota children at a hockey game in Rapid City, S.D., in January. O’Connell was the sole person charged in the racist attack although 15 or more men were involved.           

The judge ruled that dousing the children with beer and yelling hateful statements was neither racist nor offensive, but “celebratory.” This is beyond incredible. It is abysmal, abominable and hideous racism (both the behavior and the “legal” decision). Following that line of so-called reasoning, it can be assumed that if Native Americans threw beer on a group of whites and made threatening statements this would be dismissed as just “celebratory.” No court in the land would so rule. We all know that just the opposite would happen: Native defendants would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law in our racist court system.

The judge’s decision is tantamount to declaring an “open season” on Indians, children in particular, that will reverberate throughout the country, particularly in other areas of the Western states. The racist killings of Indian people by the police and atrocities against Native children will continue. It is just a question of when and where.

This odious decision has, I am sure, already heralded truly “celebratory” gatherings by the racist goons guilty of the horrendous attack on the children.

It brings to mind the days of the civil rights movement in the South when racist white judges and juries routinely found “not guilty” white hooligans who abused and killed civil rights workers and African Americans simply fighting for the right to vote and for desegregation.           

Something has to be done, instead of simply waiting for another atrocity to be committed. There has to be a “turning point.” The attack on the children and this loathsome legal decision should be a “turning point.” We must make it such a juncture.

During the civil rights movement a “turning point” was reached when the fire hoses were unleashed on African American elementary school children demonstrating on the streets of Birmingham, Alabama.

The racism in law enforcement in Indian Country has been a crisis for longer than recent memory, but it has escalated when our children are not seen as fit to be protected by the legal system. (We have already seen the continued kidnapping of Indian children by South Dakota in violation of the Indian Child Welfare Act) .

We need to have a national meeting of Native people and supporters to robustly address this crisis post haste. There has to be national coordination and strategy to confront and bring to justice these racist perpetrators and to deal with a rogue justice system.

Photo: I Support the Lakota 57/Facebook


CONTRIBUTOR

Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee Indian. He is a freelance reporter and political columnist for News From Indian Country, and other Native and non-Native publications. He is also a historian and attorney specializing in Native American law. Currently, he is writing a history of the Maya Indian role in the Guatemelan civil war of the late 20th century.

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