Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bundys Acquitted, Natives Arrested: A Double Standard?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bundys Acquitted, Natives Arrested: A Double Standard?

Article excerpt

On the same day that the seven armed occupiers of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon were acquitted of all charges, 141 people were arrested in their ongoing protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline a few states away.

The juxtaposition of Thursday's events has left some activists, legal experts, and native Americans frustrated over what they see as unfair treatment. While the two situations differ, the feeling of injustice comes mainly from how the native protesters were treated, since the majority of them, observers say, are unarmed - but still faced SWAT trucks and riot gear.

"I'm struggling as an attorney to see an equitable system when you have armed criminals ... who have seized public property for months [acquitted of their charges]," says Anthony Broadman, an attorney who represents tribal governments in public affairs, in an interview with The Christian Science Monitor. "On the other hand I wake up and see pictures of dogs with bloody mouths and state- sponsored suppression of peaceful, unarmed environmental protests. As an attorney, it is really troubling to not see a double standard."

That feeling of injustice has helped bring the movement for native American land rights to public awareness. Natives have been protesting since the 1960s, usually with little to show for it, after generations of failed treaties between tribes and the government that have led to the loss of land, sacred sites, and clean water.

As the losses mount, so does the frustration, says Mr. Broadman. "Tribes and native people have been fighting to protect their land and themselves using civil disobedience for decades in the modern era," Mr. Broadman says.

When the occupiers of the refuge led by Ammon Bundy claimed earlier this year that Western lands under the federal government should be given to ranchers, some native American tribes were furious: Those were the lands that harbor their artifacts and sacred burial grounds that were taken away from them decades ago, with minimal compensation to the tribe members.

"We don't claim to be victims, but we were," Jarvis Kennedy, councilman with the Burns Paiute Tribe in Harney County, Ore. …

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