Saturday, February 9, 2013
Native Youth Drummers Attacked by Snowbowl Supporter at City of Flagstaff Ski Event
*Video will be posted soon.
Flagstaff, AZ — As part of a weeklong call for actions, more than 50 people gathered in downtown Flagstaff for an Idle No More flash mob round dance to support protection of the holy San Francisco Peaks.
The protest, which coincided with Dew Downtown, a City of Flagstaff sponsored event in partnership with Arizona Snowbowl, was organized to address Snowbowl ski area expansion and snowmaking with treated sewage.
In an apparent effort to prevent conflict between Dew Downtown and the Round Dance, protest organizers were invited to speak on the music stage at Heritage Square and then sing a song between bands. Rudy Preston, a long time advocate for the Peaks, was handed the microphone at 5:00pm to speak about the dangers of recycled toilet water snowmaking. He spoke about 5 minutes to a mixed crowd of Dew Downtown attendees and Idle No More Round Dancers. He invited the crowd to join in the Round Dance and offered literature for people who would like more information. Drumming for the Flash Mob Round Dance began at that point and a majority of the crowd joined in.
“This is a very divisive issue in our community and I was thankful for the opportunity to speak to a crowd of people who probably did not agree with my views and I hope that some of them will question if skiing on recycled toilet water is a wise decision. Even if it were to bring a few dollars to an already cash-strapped town it is not worth the risk to anyone’s health and wellbeing.” said Rudy Preston, websteward at TrueSnow.org.
When the dance was finished an impromptu march left the square and went towards the main Dew Downtown ski run area. Flagstaff police stopped the marchers from entering the area stating that Dew Downtown organizers had a permit and the protesters weren’t allowed onto the sidewalk. The march then stopped at the entrance to Dew Downtown and the protesters began chanting and singing songs.
The group chanted, “Protect Sacred Sites, Defend Human Rights!”, “No Desecration for Recreation, Protect the Peaks!” and “No Poop Snow!” when a lone Snowbowl supporter began yelling racist remarks, profanity, including the words “die” at the protesters.
The group formed a circle and were closing the protest with the American Indian Movement song when the apparently inebriated Snowbowl supporter rushed into the circle of protesters swinging her arms and tore through a large banner, pulling it from the people holding it and smashed it on the ground. She then pushed further into the circle and assaulted two young Dine’ who were singing and drumming. After punching at them, she grabbed at the drums and tried to break them.
“I feel if the roles were reversed it would have been a different outcome,” said Leslyn Begay, Dine’ mother of the 11 & 13 year olds that were assaulted. “If I attacked a caucasian child I would have gone straight to jail. This white female attacked us and knocked their drums out of their hands and may get away with it. Its racism. The cops refused my request to arrest her for assault. They gave her a disorderly conduct ticket but refused to charge her with assault or jail her for her actions against my kids.”
In response to the attack, police officer Jim Radloff said, “you may offend some people with your messages… it was her [the attacker’s] freedom of speech.”
A few of the protesters quickly reacted and pulled the attacker away from the boys and she attempted to leave the area. A few people followed her while someone alerted the police.
The police determined that the woman had been drinking and was charged with disorderly conduct and released. Many of the eyewitnesses were very upset that she was allowed to just walk away and even though she was witnessed to have been punching and swinging at everyone in her path, the police did not feel that there was enough evidence to charge her with assault.
Officer Radloff with the City of Flagstaff defended his decision when asked why she was not arrested by stating, “the outcome will be the same either way, she will be summoned to court.”
When pressed on the fact that numerous people watched the attacker assault multiple people, he said he would include that in his report and let the city attorney decide if there was enough evidence to charge her with assault.
Officer Radliff did not seem to believe one boy when he told the officer that the woman had hit him. In fact if he was surrounded by at least half a dozen people who witnessed the event insisting that she be charged with assault, it is unclear if the attacker would have even received a disorderly conduct charge. Though Officer Radliff did ultimately state “she was clearly disorderly.”
Many witnesses to the attack were visibly shaken that she was allowed to just walk away with a ticket.