Protesters press beer distributor

Published Friday August 31, 2007

Protesters carrying signs reading “People Over Profit,” “Stop Alcohol Sales to Whiteclay” and “The King of Greed” called Thursday for corporations and citizens to help prevent alcohol from getting into the hands of American Indians living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Seven representatives of Nebraskans for Peace protested in front of the western Nebraska distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, High Plains Budweiser in Scottsbluff.

The wholesale distribution company provides 86 percent of the alcohol sold in Whiteclay, according to Nebraska Liquor Control Commission figures, said Tim Rinne, state coordinator for the Lincoln-based Nebraskans for Peace.

Alcohol is banned on the reservation but can be purchased just across the South Dakota-Nebraska state line in Whiteclay.

Nebraskans for Peace says liquor stores in the Nebraska border town average sales of more than 12,000 cans of beer a day to Pine Ridge residents.

Frank LaMere, a member of the Winnebago Tribe, said he had traveled from Sioux City, Iowa, in the hope of meeting with High Plains Budweiser General Manager Jeff Scheinost.

LaMere and Duane Martin Sr., leader of the Strong Hearts Civil Rights Movement, said their goal is to stop the illegal flow of alcohol to the reservation. They called for corporations to stop selling alcohol to retailers that provide alcohol to people “who don’t have any legal place to drink it.”

LaMere said Anheuser-Busch could help by taking some of its profits and directing money toward alcohol treatment program. He said the company spent more money to promote its Clydesdale horses — LaMere put the figures at $13 million annually — than it did on programs to curb illegal use of alcohol or treat alcohol abuse.

Society could also help by directing tax dollars from the sale of alcohol to alcohol treatment programs.

In a press release, Scheinost said the distributor abided by all laws and regulations of the U.S. Treasury Department and the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission.

“While we are certain that Nebraskans for Peace is a well-intentioned group, we do not believe their protest is the way to address this situation,” Scheinost said.

“If the aim is to draw attention to the need for comprehensive, effective approaches that will truly make a difference on these issues, hopefully it will result in raising awareness among those who are truly in a position to help. We do not agree that tactics that affect responsible adult consumers and harm retailers throughout the area are the answer to this problem.”

LaMere and Martin said that Thursday’s protest and future protests are intended to publicize what they say are problems on the Pine Ridge Reservation caused by Whiteclay alcohol sales. The group expressed a willingness to travel to St. Louis to protest at the Anheuser-Busch corporate headquarters.

A similar protest is planned for the Coors Brewing Co. corporate headquarters in Colorado. LaMere also referred to plans for future protests at the Nebraska Capitol and protests involving American Indian leaders during the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August 2008.

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