Wednesday, December 17, 2014

American Indian Movement Should Be Allowed To March In Rapid City On Friday. Adjust The Timing A Bit, But Let Them March.

Dennis Banks at AIM March In Rapid City, 2012
Photo From Indianz.com

     Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris has plenty of plausible reasons for saying "no." His denial of a special events permit for an American Indian Movement (AIM)- sponsored anti-police brutality march on Friday, December 19, has some basis to it.  First off, it comes during the opening day of the Lakota Nations Invitational, a tremendously popular multi-tribal sporting event that annually draws thousands of people to town. Secondly, its 3 p.m. start coincides with the dismissal time at Rapid City Central High School. Both the tournament, held at the civic center, and the high school are adjacent to the march route, so you can imagine the congestion and consequent security considerations posed by the event.
     Adding to Jegeris's concerns is a 2012 march, pictured here, where things apparently got out of hand.  In a press release issued by the RCPD yesterday, Jegeris notes:  "The same event organizers were involved in the May 2012 March/Rally involving Rapid City Regional Hospital. That event drew hundreds of demonstrators. Although the event was promoted as peaceful, numerous public safety issues arose including; disruption of traffic, obstruction of police, threat to occupy the hospital, threat of arson to the hospital, and other issues that placed the demonstrators, law enforcement, and the general public at risk. This demonstrates the organizers' lack of ability to provide adequate supervision to the event, and demonstrates the great risk that would be posed to the LNI."
     I commend Jegeris for his forthright commitment to public safety and challenge anyone to brush off his reasonable concerns.  But meritorious as those concerns are, they need to be set aside in pursuit of a much greater consideration.  We have a Constitutional right to assemble peacefully in this country, and absent any indications or threats that the peaceable nature of the Indian march will be violated by the participants, the march needs to go on. That an earlier demonstration by the same group went awry isn't enough to deny them the right to assemble again.  It's certainly enough to make sure that security is tighter than ever, but just as we have a presumption of innocence in our culture, a presumption of peaceful intentions should prevail in the decision-making process regarding this permit.  Veterans once staged a march ("the Bonus Army" in 1932) on Washington, D.C., that turned so violent regular Army troops had to be called in to quell the disturbance.  But I don't recall anyone afterwards trying to deny veterans the right to assemble because of that violent affair.  All Americans should get the same consideration.  
"Bonus Army" in Washington, 1932
photo from Wikipedia

     It does seem reasonable to ask the organizers to adjust their schedule so that the march won't conflict with Central's dismissal.  That stretch of Rushmore Road between the school and the LNI event at the civic center is already a madhouse at dismissal time, so working around that situation is about the only adjustment to the request by the Indian marchers that makes sense to me.  
     Outside of that, the local marchers should be given every opportunity to make their point. Without hard, compelling evidence that violence is likely, restraining these affairs in the name of security just goes against the grain of everything the word "freedom" means. 

Update (posted at 5:17 p.m. 12/18):  Rapid City Police this afternoon issued a special events permit to march organizers.  Time will be tomorrow (12/19) from 1:00 p.m to 3:00 p.m. at Memorial Park adjacent to the Civic Center.  

2 comments:

  1. Freedom is not always convenient. Freedom of speech means that sometimes people say stuff that we don’t like. Freedom of religion means some believe in God, false Gods or no God, etc..
    Meet with them. Ask for ideas on security. Perhaps a different route. Work it out.
    Let’em march!

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  2. Thank you for the information. All the articles I had read did not explain the specific concerns that the police have.

    It is unfortunate when details are left out of articles because it is misleading and causes more misunderstandings rather than solving.

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