Uh oh, Chief—looks like we got a case of speaking while Indian.
Cody Hall, Anthony Bordeaux, and other American Indian activists want to hold a march against police brutality in Rapid City Friday in conjunction with the Lakota Nation Invitational, a big basketball (and knowledge bowl, business plan, archery, language...) tournament that will bring lots of Natives and maybe some wasicu to town. Organizers want to march from the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center (site of LNI) to Main Street and back. Seems like a good opportunity to reach a larger audience and do some organizing, right?
Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris has denied a permit for this march, saying these organizers couldn't keep their crowd under control the last time they raised a ruckus in Rapid:
The event was proposed to take place on Friday December 19th, beginning at 3pm. Since that time, the event has been advertised as a March/Rally on social media and indicators show that well over 100 people plan to attend. This was proposed to occur during the Lakota Nation Invitational (LNI), an event that is expected to draw approximately 2500 youth and their families to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
The same event organizers were involved in the May 2012 March/Rally involving Rapid City Regional Hospital. That event drew hundreds of demonstrators. Although the event was promoted as peaceful, numerous public safety issues arose including; disruption of traffic, obstruction of police, threat to occupy the hospital, threat of arson to the hospital, and other issues that placed the demonstrators, law enforcement, and the general public at risk. This demonstrates the organizers' lack of ability to provide adequate supervision to the event, and demonstrates the great risk that would be posed to the LNI.
"The LNI is a positive youth event, and the public safety of our youth and families is the number one priority. The City of Rapid City and the Rapid City Police Department have worked hard over the past 38 years to support and ensure the highest degree of Public Safety possible for the LNI," said Rapid City Police Chief Karl Jegeris. It is for this reason that the March/Rally/Walk be kept separate from the LNI [Rapid City Police Department, press release, 2014.12.16].
Safety first—yup, that's the recipe for authoritarianism that our country has embraced too willingly since September 11, 2001.
Chief Jegeris hasn't completely shut the door on the protesters' exercise of the First Amendment:
The Rapid City Police Department is committed to protecting all Constitutional Rights of residents and visitors, including the Right to Assemble and Freedom of Speech," said Chief Jegeris. It is for that reason that Chief Jegeris has offered to meet with the event organizers to make arrangements to accommodate an alternative date and/or location [RCPD, 2014.12.16].
I'm pleased the chief is still offering an alternative, but will he end up offering organizers some out-of-the-way "free speech zone" like we've seen at national political conventions?
Refresh me on this question: why do we need a permit system for public assembly and protest? Why do the police get any check over the exercise of First Amendment rights? Assembling to speak is not a prosecutable crime; should you or I or an Indian in Rapid City have to ask the government's permission to do so?
If the police see a crowd of people making noise, they should certainly mosey over to see what's the hubbub, but should they have the authority to exercise any restraint before the crowd even assemble, let alone before anyone in the crowd commits a crime?
Organizers, in Rapid City, it's time to rebrand from "We Can't Breathe" to "We Can't Speak."