Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 17, 2011

Ute Tribe urges US investigation of Maori pepper sprayed by police

Ute Indian Tribe Requests the United States Department of Justice to Investigate the Excessive Use of Force Used on Maori Visitors, and On Other Members of the Community
Censored News

The Ute Indian Tribe has reached out to the Maori performers who were assaulted on October 20, 2011, at the Uintah v. Union High School Football Game. The performers were invited by the Union High School to perform the Haka, a traditional Maori war dance. During the performance, two City of Roosevelt police officers commanded that the Maori move from the Officers’ path and when they did not, the Officers assaulted the Maori performers with batons and deployed face-full amounts of pepper spray at close range.
Ute Indian Tribe Business Committee Chairwoman Irene Cuch extended her sincerest apologies to the Maori visitors:
The police officers who assaulted and pepper sprayed our visitors and members of the community have gone too far. We are appalled by the extreme “responses” some city, county, and state police officers are capable of doling out. Such excessive use of force reminds us of the police brutality our community and our tribal members face on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. A real and genuine investigation by the United States Department of Justice is now in order. These are not random or unusual incidents but an ongoing pattern of civil rights violations that must be halted. The longer such violations go unchecked, the more our community and our world is torn apart.
Chairwoman Cuch concluded that “Cultural diversity training, revision of use of force policies and procedures, and a review of the policy on pepper spray is only the beginning. What we need is mutual respect between police officers and civilians, and a respect for the rights of all people, including, members of the Ute Indian Tribe, indigenous people and people with different cultures, values, and yes, even dances.”
About the Ute Indian Tribe-The Ute Indian Tribe resides on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation in northeastern Utah. Three bands of Utes comprise the Ute Indian Tribe: the Whiteriver Band, the Uncompahgre Band and the Uintah Band. The Tribe has a membership of more than three thousand individuals, with over half living on the Uintah and Ouray Reservation. The Ute Indian Tribe operates its own tribal government and oversees approximately 1.3 million acres of trust land which contains significant oil and gas deposits. The Tribal Business Committee is the governing council of the Tribe.
Reposted from Pechanga Net:

ACLU seeks probe after haka dancers pepper-sprayed

December 07, 2011|Jennifer Dobner, Associated Press
The state’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is calling for an independent investigation after police used pepper spray and batons on a group of spectators performing a traditional Maori war dance called the haka after a high school football game in a small Utah town.
Officers used pepper spray on about a dozen family members, including at least one as young as 4, after the October game in Roosevelt. The group had traveled about 125 miles east of Salt Lake City to watch a relative play his final game for Union High School.
Union lost the game to rival Uintah and finished the season without a victory. Afterward, a group of Polynesian men and boys performed the haka to boost the player’s spirits. The haka originated from New Zealand’s native Maori culture and has been popularized by rugby players there who chant, beat their chests and gesture aggressively before matches. It is performed at football and rugby games around the world.
Two officers interrupted the dance, using pepper spray and a baton to disperse the group.
An internal investigation by Roosevelt police cleared the officers of any wrongdoing and said their actions were appropriate because they feared a riot was imminent.
“To our disappointment, the police department’s findings appear to be anything but objective,’’ the ACLU’s Interim Director Joseph Cohn wrote in a letter sent Monday to Duchesne County Attorney Stephen Foote.
The ACLU is concerned that the decision to deploy pepper spray during a cultural ritual may have violated the dancers’ constitutional rights, Cohn writes. He also notes that the police department’s report fails to consider a video of the dancers or statements from 15 witnesses who said they did not feel threatened by the dance.
Foote was away from the office Tuesday and could not be reached for comment. Roosevelt Police Chief Rick Harrison did not return a message.
The officers’ reports about the Oct. 20 incident in Roosevelt, a town of about 8,000 residents, said some of the dancers had been yelling obscenities at referees during the game, then danced in front of the only exit from the stadium.
Officer Luke Stradinger apologized in his report for causing “discomfort’’ to innocent bystanders, but said he wasn’t familiar with the dance and was concerned because the group was blocking the only exit from the field for the football teams.
“I have never seen such an event, or even heard of such a thing,’’ Stradinger said.
While Stradinger used pepper spray, Officer Wade Butterfield used a baton to disperse the group. Butterfield said he became worried during the game because some of the people were yelling obscenities at the referees and acting in an unsportsmanlike manner.
“I have seen a riot firsthand and know how dangerous they can be in an instant,’’ Butterfield said. “No more force was used than was necessary to defuse the situation.’’
The department says officers will be given additional training in cultural diversity and customs.

No comments: