Minneapolis, MN - March 10, protestors fighting to stop the Reroute of Highway 55 celebrated seven months of a successful united stand against a multi-million dollar road project. Following the largest police raid in Minnesota history last December 20, there have been important developments in the struggle.
Several weeks after the brutal, 4 a.m. raid on the peaceful camp, the Justice Department got involved and courts ordered mediation between lawsuit plaintiffs, Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and members of Earth First!, and the defendants, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Department of the Interior. The road project was halted until mediation is completed.
The Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community has argued that the Minnesota Department of Transportation is in violation of Federal Law in trying to put a road through burial sites and Traditional Cultural Properties, which include the four sacred trees and Camp Coldwater Springs. On March 18 and 19, elders from the Mesquakie, Iowa, Ojibway, and other First Nations, testified about the significance of land between Minnehaha Falls and Camp Coldwater Springs. This supported the struggle of the Mendota to permanently protect this area as a Traditional Cultural Property, which would, in effect stop this reroute.
Another significant development has been the introduction of legislation in the Minnesota House of Representatives and the State Senate that would raise state standards on sacred sites and Traditional Cultural Properties up to Federal Standards. For information on the bill call Linda Brown at (612) 944-7290.
Jim Anderson, Cultural Chairman of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community, said, "They say they have ties all the way to Congress, well, we have ties all the way to the Creator, and now we have support in both the Minnesota House and Senate. When will they wake up and realize that this road is going to be stopped because it violates Federal Law that protects our Freedom of Religion and sacred sites... and that it is a violation of law to receive Federal money to build this reroute?"
The Minnesota News Council held a forum at Anne Sullivan School on Wednesday, March 17, to examine the unhealthy relationship between the police and the media during the raid of December 20, where non-violent protesters were tear-gassed, had pepper-spray applied directly to their eyes, and were beaten bloody.
Reporter Dick Bancroft described his arrest and seizure of his camera and film that has never been returned. He had documented the destruction of the American Indian Movement's (A.I.M.) drum during the raid, which violated Federal Law.
A.I.M., the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and Earth First! are camped south of 54th Street. The camp is prepared to renew a campaign of Non-violent Direct Action if the mediation and legislation fail to stop the reroute of Highway 55. Sky, a young A.I.M. activist said, "If they come again I'll make a citizen's arrest on them for bringing weapons to these sacred sites. We are strong and we know we are right, and that is why MnDoT and their road are beginning to crumble... Bury my heart where MnDoT won't find it."