Two attendees of “Native American Heritage Night” sponsored by the San Francisco Giants on June 23 are filing a claim in excess of $10,000 against the City and County of San Francisco for damages.
April Negrette, Shoshone and Paiute, and Kimball Bighorse, Seneca, Cayuga and Navajo, allege that excessive force was used against them when they were detained and dejected at the Giants game after confronting a fan who was wearing a Native warbonnet.
In the lawsuit, they claim the San Francisco Police Department’s actions violated their constitutional rights and the UN General Assembly’s "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (DRIP).
Their attorney, Rachel Lederman, who is the president of the Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said, “We are considering all legal options both as to SFPD and the Giants, to vindicate our clients’ rights under the UN Declaration and the US Constitution and obtain justice.”
“I am tired of being walked all over,” April told NLGSF.org. “Nobody would call me a sq*aw to my face, but they will make fun of our culture – the cultures that were outlawed, forcibly removed from us, beaten out of us in boarding schools, that people were murdered for simply because we were different – and play dress up in it now because all of a sudden it’s cool to be a Native? No way. We live, breathe and die this everyday. We walk around with the influences of those things ingrained in us to this day.”
Bighorse, whose account of the event was previously reported by ICTMN, was able to capture what happened in a video he took during the scuffle. You can watch it here.
In June, Bighorse told ICTMN that once they were escorted out of the stadium they were “ambushed by several police officers, who prevented us from returning to our seats,” and “They claimed that we were trespassing and that we had to leave. I asked for what cause, and they claimed it was because of ‘unruly behavior.’” Bighorse also said he was “violently patted down.”
In a letter to the Giants organization, Negrette, Bighorse and the National Lawyers Guild have also demanded an apology and want the Giants to expressly prohibit headdress and other appropriations of Native American spirituality and culture at their games.
In July, ABC News reported that the Giants were considering a change in management and had refined their code of conduct. "If they wear culturally insensitive attire they could be subject to removal from the ballpark. So we've added a line about wearing culturally insensitive attire to our game," Giants Vice-President of Public Affairs Shana Daum told the local network.
"They were hurt by the way in which one of the artifacts and one of their sacred items of clothing was being worn by another fan," Daum said after meeting with Native American groups.
The SFPD did not comment on the lawsuit, but referred ICTMN to the State’s Attorney’s Office which did not respond for comment by the time this article was posted.