Broomfield Police play rough game of Cowboys & Indians with Idle No More Native Americans, literally
BROOMFIELD, COLO.- Fellow Occupy members and I joined in a “round dance” flash mob at a local mall on Wednesday night, as part of the growing IDLE NO MORE actions whose First Nations grievances include the despoiling of indigenous treaty lands by tar sands extraction and the XL pipeline, and sovereignty issues about which Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now on a 22 day hunger strike. Two previous round dances in Colorado had proceeded uneventfully but no sooner had we begun in the Flatirons Crossing Shopping Center, located between Denver and Boulder, that mall security and police began routing the round dancers out the door. It was a rather comical scene, peaceful dancers, many of them children, being blocked and herded straight out into the cold, no warning or explanation being given. Of course the round dance stopped in its tracks, people instead dancing in place, gently waving their signs, as security told them they had to leave or face arrest. Apparently, because we didn’t hear it. Drummers were let to finish the first song, after which they packed up to leave. Once the drumming stopped however, we were surprised to hear security and police officers relaying their instructions, that “anyone who looked Native American” should be made to leave.
Of course we questioned what we were hearing, and were then threatened with immediate arrest and ushered out the door. At the same time, police officers were running in a continuous line into the mall to conduct sweeps as many flash mob participants were still arriving from all directions. Many got lost on the way, or miscalculated the traffic they’d encounter, so arrived late. In essence however, people without signs, not singing or dancing or drumming or holding their ground, were summarily being ordered to leave the mall immediately, based upon the clue that they looked Native American.
If my “Cowboys and Indians” analogy seems kinda flip. Imagine squads of Broomfield and Westminster police, roaming throughout the FlatIrons Mall checking people’s faces to see if they qualify to be expelled. The mall wasn’t cleared of all shoppers, just those who looked indigenous. A fairly scarey game, considering that many of the Idle No More participants were children.
I can tell you part of the thrill for me, of the round dance flash mobs, as a European immigrant, is feeling the surroundings begin to fill with indigenous faces. That is turned around in the hostile atmosphere created by the police, as western law enforcement resumes its traditional role of hunting down those it pretends don’t belong.
I had invited a friend to bring her young family, part Native American, to join the dance. Thankfully they couldn’t make it. What if they’d had, and come late, and were walking through the mall full of shoppers, and were encountered by squads of police who sought them out of the crowd and inexplicably ordered them to leave the premises? What’s any American child to think of that?
I have a young nephew who just that day I’d seen playing in his policeman’s costume, with a new policeman’s badge he got for Christmas. What would he have thought of that?
Plus, how’s that for irony? Natives considered trespassers. Even the mother of a girl being detained, was not allowed past to inquire what was happening, because she didn’t fit the profile of Americans who have rights, or a profile the police thought should be afforded a status of dignity or respect.
Meanwhile, three female participants, one of them 17-year-old Idle No More organizer Cheyenne McCallister, were being detained inside.
When Occupy Colorado Springs activist Patrick Jay tried to document the actions of the police from outside the mall window, he was pounced upon by Bloomfield Police for not having removed himself sufficiently from the area and thus was held to be trespassing. When I tried to take pictures of his arrest, I was arrested.
Held in separate police cruisers we could hear over the police radio that fifteen Westminster Police Officers were on their way armed with “shields and gas”. An officer on the scene told the dispatcher to turn them back because they were no longer need. As we’d seen, the mall and even the parking area filled with police vehicles had been completely cleared. But then a report came that a Native American group was reconstituting itself in “Parking lot E” and so the officers in riot gear were summoned. We learned later that they did arrive to menace the crowd, which decided to reconvene across the street at a McDonalds instead.
And now consider the further travesty, when a local news crew arrived to cover the story, they told only the mall’s side, because the IDLE NO MORE folks were prevented from reaching the news crew because it would mean trespassing! They could only watch, then watch on television as the story completely misrepresented the facts.
Patrick and I were eventually booked and held for several hours, like the others, then released to a warm welcome from Idle No More organizers who’d waited the whole evening. Our court date is February 20, the two women and one minor have court the next day, February 21.
(First and last photo credit: Jolynne Locust Woodcock)
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