A cartoon by Ricardo Cate. Image: Without Reservations / Facebook

Parents of Lakota 57 respond to not guilty verdict in Rapid City

The following is the text of a statement posted by The Lakota 57, a Facebook page started by some of parents from the Oglala Sioux Tribe whose children were victimized at a hockey game in Rapid City, South Dakota, on January 25, 2015.

Folks, today Judge Strawn issued a decision finding that the single defendant charged, Trace O'Connell, was not guilty of disorderly conduct when he poured beer, threw foreign objects at and physically threatened young children within his reach.

The Judge felt that causing many children to be doused with beer while yelling "you should be able to cheer louder than that. You're from the reservation" was not racist or violent but "celebratory." The judge made every effort to place the verdict on the people with the children who protected the children from further harm.

The judge praised the children who testified just as though they had been prepared to testify to all of the facts. They had not. The opinion misstated the facts the court had. We are reminded that the court had refused to hear facts back in July that would have required a conviction on a hate crime charge. There is more. It will come out.

A sign created by parents of The Lakota 57: "Child abuse is not our way." Photo from The Lakota 57

We are today sickened by this white man's decision to allow other rich white men to harm Indian children for fun, while drunk, because they knew they could get away with it. But we are not surprised. There is nothing new about this victim-blaming, down-playing refusal to see Indian children as capable of feeling pain or sadness like the Judge's children or the children of the men who committed the crimes for which they were not charged or convicted today.

The US Army gave Medals of Honor for killing unarmed women children at Wounded Knee. The United States and the State of South Dakota have been profiting from the abuse of Indian children taken from their homes for more than a century. The South Dakota court system refused to find Raymond Yellow Thunder and Wesley Bad Hear Bull human enough that their murders were homicide.

This acquittal of a man so drunk he could not stand up of the crimes that he and his friends committed is the same. The murders of Alan Locke and those who preceded him in dying by violence in Rapid City, Tim Bull Bear among them, are also more of the same. We now know that it is still, as a man standing outside the courthouse said back in July, "open season on Indians" in Rapid City.

Tribal members march in support of the Lakota 57. Photo: The Lakota 57

The "Indian Wars" (wars bought to Indians by white land thieves, rapists and murderers who could not find a living in their own lands) continue here today. Please remember that it serves those rich white men very well if we are divided, if we attack each other, if we waste our energy finding fault with each other.

We will not do that here. Today the American government again made it safe for white criminals to drink and drive and commit riot and violence on Indian children who are, like all children, sacred beings.

Nothing is sacred to those who put money and power before children --the future--and we cannot look to them for justice, for fairness, or for the resources we will need to raise healthy children in a society where they are fair game for rich white men enjoying the fruits of what they ancestors stole from the children's ancestors, men so powerful they do not even need to follow the laws of their own society on drinking and driving and risking the lives of all of those around them.

Those who are disappointed in this verdict, we feel for you. We knew from the police investigation that no crime would or could be proven. Those who believed that the Police Department was interested in getting the facts, that the prosecutor was interested in prosecuting, that a trial in a school theatre is anything but a show, we're so sorry you had to learn that lesson this way. It is painful.

We knew that the former police chief, now the Mayor, appears to have controlled the department while it killed unarmed Indians and himself expressed racist views that came out during his campaign. We knew that he personally supported this kind of inadequate prosecution as school play knowing the city's attorney had expressed his own belief that no crime took place and that he would use witness statements against them in any civil case they might bring, that he would use children to keep his position and protect those rich white men who hired him.

Many of us were personally present when he told the parents that they were luck they got any criminal prosecution for the public attacks on their very young children.

We ask that those in Rapid City be safe. There will be justice. Please support us and each other in the time to come.

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