Native American Protesters To Appear In Court In Arizona

Oct 22, 2020
Originally published on October 25, 2020 9:49 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Native American protesters who were tear-gassed by law enforcement on Indigenous Peoples Day in Arizona are in court today. Indigenous Peoples Day is what many people today call Columbus Day. They were protesting construction of President Trump's border wall across sacred sites. Arizona Public Media's Alisa Reznick reports.

ALISA REZNICK, BYLINE: On October 12, demonstrators blocked the highway near an immigration checkpoint almost 60 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border, praying, singing and shouting.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Shame on you.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: Shame on you.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: Shame on you and all your ancestors.

REZNICK: Arizona Department of Public Safety officers pressed into the crowd with tear gas.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEAR GAS DETONATING)

REZNICK: A videographer with the protesters shared footage of state troopers firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets when the crowd refused to leave. They arrested 11 people. Indigenous groups have protested here since the 30-foot steel border wall began advancing this summer on Quitobaquito Springs.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #3: Whose land?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: O'odham land.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #3: Whose land?

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: O'odham land.

REZNICK: It's a rare oasis at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument that's sacred to O'odham tribes whose ancestral land spans Arizona and northern Mexico. Organizers like B Lewis say the wall is cutting through it with abandon.

B LEWIS: It's been terrifying, mortifying, horrific to see where your ancestors are buried and your history, your culture have been plummeted through by a wall of hate.

REZNICK: Tribal Chairman Ned Norris Jr. with the Tohono O'odham Nation, has joined it to several lawsuits against construction.

NED NORRIS JR: I'm not going to sit here and talk with you about ways that you can accomplish your wall. It's a wall that we would rather see go away.

REZNICK: Norris says that Customs and Border Protection has failed to consult with tribes on land and sacred sites as federal law requires. U.S. Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott disputes that.

RODNEY SCOTT: If you don't agree at the end of the day, that's just how things are going to go. But to say that we haven't had conversations, that we haven't worked together, I think, is a little disingenuous.

REZNICK: Following weeks of demonstrations, the National Park Service cut off public access to keep Quitobaquito in September. Organizers say, now the wall crosses in front of it. Four protesters will hear misdemeanor charges in court today. One will also be brought up on a felony resisting arrest charge next month. CBP says more than 370 miles of wall has been built so far. Indigenous demonstrators say they'll keep protesting as long as construction continues.

For NPR News, I'm Alisa Reznick in Tucson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIM SCHAUFERT'S "JOURNEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.