“It’s obscene and offensive to us that local and state governments move to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day while the federal government blows up our sacred sites, steals our kids, militarily occupies our communities, and shoots at Native Americans.”
By Kenny Stancil
A dozen land and water protectors were arrested after Border Patrol and Arizona State Troopers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a Native American ceremony on Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12, 2020. (Photo: Rafael Samanez/O’odham Anti Border Collective)
Twelve people, including at least eight Native Americans, were arrested near an immigration checkpoint in Southern Arizona on Indigenous Peoples’ Day after United States Border Patrol agents and Arizona law enforcement officials violently repressed a peaceful action held Monday morning by roughly 30 land and water protectors.
The O’odham Anti Border Collective—a group of Akimel O’odham, Tohono O’odham, and Hia Ced O’odham tribal members that seeks to promote the cultural practices and protect the homelands of all O’odham nations “through the dismantling of colonial borders”—organized an Indigenous prayer ceremony to voice opposition to the cultural and ecological destruction caused by the construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall.
According to a statement released by the group, O’odham families “sang traditional songs, prayed, and attempted to discuss the Freedom of Religion Act that decriminalized Native American religions and opened the path towards the protection of sacred sites.”
After telling them to clear the roadway, Border Patrol agents, Arizona state troopers, and officers from the state’s Department of Public Safety attacked participants with tear gas and rubber bullets.
A video of the incident recorded by a witness and posted online shows the police march towards the protesters and remove several individuals from vehicles to make arrests. Tear gas is visible, and the firing of rubber bullets can be heard. https://player.vimeo.com/video/467449845
The O’odham Anti Border Collective said the police shot at least one O’odham man in the chest with a rubber bullet, an example of what the group called the “violence [and] extensive abuses” that O’odham communities endure as a result of “border militarization.”
The collective stated that those who were ripped out of vehicles and tear gassed included “children and people with vulnerable health” who were attempting observe the ceremony from the safety of their cars.
According to the group, the police “grabbed children who had been in vehicles and abducted them from their parents—stealing children from Indigenous parents for practicing their religion is a clear violation of the Freedom of Religion Act and the Indian Child Welfare Act.”
“It’s obscene and offensive to us that local and state governments move to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day while the federal government blows up our sacred sites, steals our kids, militarily occupies our communities, and shoots at Native Americans praying to protect our land and ancestors from desecration,” said one O’odham tribal member who was present at the ceremony Monday morning.
The O’odham Anti Border Collective made the following demands:
- Immediate release of all who were arrested Monday;
- Immediate release of all minors abducted by the state Monday;
- Information about and reparations for all who were injured Monday;
- End the checkpoints and remove all Customs and Border Protection agencies from O’odham lands;
- Immediate and indefinite discontinuation of border wall construction at Quitobaquito Springs and throughout O’odham territories;
- Immediate removal of the white supremacist border wall and restoration of the land;
- Immediate demilitarization of O’odham lands;
- Remove the Integrated Fixed Towers;
- End racial profiling and harassment of Indigenous peoples;
- End incarceration and deportation of O’odham people from O’odham homelands by border patrol;
- End sexual and gender violence by border patrol;
- End white supremacist attacks, incarceration, and deportation of refugees and migrants on Indigenous lands; and
- Support Indigenous autonomy against colonial borders.
The group said Monday that they are still trying to obtain information about the condition of the man who was shot in the chest as well as others who were shot at.
The Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson-based newspaper, reported that about 35 supporters gathered outside the Pima County Jail to demand the respectful treatment and release of those arrested during the protest earlier in the day.
Kenny Stancil is a staff writer for Common Dreams.
This article was published on October 13 by Common Dreams.