Whiteclay activists protest liquor sales

By PAUL HAMMEL / OMAHA WORLD-HERALD / August 24, 2012

LINCOLN — Women on the Oglala Sioux Reservation are now getting involved in the effort to shut down the four liquor stores in Whiteclay, Neb.

The liquor stores have been the subject of protests for more than a decade because they sell more than 4 million cans of beer a year, mostly to residents of the adjacent, and officially dry, reservation.

On Sunday, a group of women will lead a protest march to the unincorporated village on the Nebraska-South Dakota border.

One of the organizers, Olowan Martinez, said that women object to the alcohol-related problems fed by the liquor stores, which include high rates of alcoholism, fetal-alcohol syndrome and spousal abuse. Rates of sexual assault and domestic violence are double the national average on the reservation, and many blame the alcohol that is easily available from Whiteclay.

“We’re fighting to protect our homes. We’re standing up to end an over 100-year infection on our people,” said Martinez, a Lakota activist.

About 50 people gathered today on the steps of the State Capitol in Lincoln in a rally for the “Women’s Day of Peace” event.

Groups including Nebraskans for Peace, Deep Green Resistance and Occupy Lincoln pledged to participate.

Sunday’s rally follows one on June 9 in which members of Deep Green Resistance, a nationwide activist group, blocked the highway through Whiteclay for more than four hours.

Martinez said her group plans a nonviolent march, but that she could not speak for other groups involved in the protest.

Nebraska officials have said that Whiteclay merchants sell a legal product and they cannot shut them down unless they break state laws.

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