Activist criticizes use of horse trailer to remove Whiteclay protestors


A protest in the Nebraska border town of Whiteclay ended Sunday after officers used a horse trailer to move five protesters to a nearby town.

Olowan Martinez, a Lakota woman and protest organizer, said Monday the five had locked arms and stretched themselves across Nebraska 87 on the north end of Whiteclay.

Sheridan County sheriff’s deputies, Oglala Sioux tribal officers and Nebraska State Patrol troopers in Whiteclay removed the group and put them in the horse trailer.

She said she had never seen law enforcement react that way in Whiteclay.

“It’s insane,” Martinez said. “There’s no seat belt (in a horse trailer). They broke their own laws.”

Mark Vasina of Nebraskans for Peace said it appeared law enforcement officials handled the protesters as gently as possible. He said he understood why they used the trailer.

“This was the safest way they could pick them up and transport them,” he said.

The five were booked into Sheridan County Jail in Rushville but later released. State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins referred the Journal Star to Sheridan County Attorney Dennis King, who declined to comment Monday, saying he hadn’t been updated on Sunday’s events.

Martinez said the five were ordered to appear in court Sept. 26, but she didn’t know what charges they faced.

The five are members of Deep Green Resistance, an environmental and social justice advocacy organization. They were among more than 100 protesters who marched two miles Sunday from Pine Ridge, S.D., to Whiteclay, a town of 10 people where four beer stores sold nearly 4.3 million cans of beer last year.

Alcohol is banned on the reservation, and activists have long sought closure of the Whiteclay beer stores. In February, the Oglala Sioux Tribe filed a lawsuit against the store owners and their suppliers.

Also on Sunday, a Nebraska law enforcement official sprayed mace in the faces of children and teens who tried to block a law enforcement vehicle. The children and teens also tried to take an arrested person out of a vehicle, said Tyson Blacksmith, a bystander and 22-year-old protestor from Oglala, S.D.

“It went well,” Martinez said of the protest. “The message was taken. This isn’t going to stop until the alcohol sales in Whiteclay are gone.”

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