During what should have been a peaceful gathering to protest the use of recycled wastewater on the sacred San Francisco Peaks, the Protect the Peaks organization says two Navajo youth were attacked by an inebriated woman in Flagstaff, Arizona on February 9.
The incident occurred in the midst of an Idle No More flash mob round dance and Arizona Snowbowl protest that coincided with Dew Downtown, an urban ski and snowboard festival. Peaks advocate Rudy Preston had taken the stage in Heritage Square, where other Dew Downtown events were going on, to speak at 5 p.m. and invited the crowd to join the round dance.
After the dance was complete an impromptu march left the square and moved toward the main Dew Downtown ski run area where they were stopped by Flagstaff police, according to a Protect the Peaks press release. Protesters chanted at the Dew Downtown entrance and were closing the protest with the American Indian Movement song when a woman, who according to the release was a Snowbowl supporter, “rushed into the circle of protesters swinging her arms and tore through a large banner, pulling it from the people holding it and smashed it on the ground.”
The press release says the woman then assaulted two young Diné who were singing and drumming in the group. “After punching at them, she grabbed at the drums and tried to break them,” it states.
Lt. Lance Roberts, of the Flagstaff Police Department confirmed that the woman involved “was very, very intoxicated” but also said there were “several sides to this story.”
He said officers at the scene watched video taken by Protect the Peaks of the woman and the protesters but could not determine from that if an assault had happened, so she was charged with disorderly conduct and sent on her way.
“The officer looked at it [the video] and could not see where this gal assaulted the teenagers, so what they decided to do was issue a summons for disorderly conduct,” Roberts said, adding that no marks could be seen on the youth.
Protesters felt she should be charged with assault and arrested.
“I feel if the roles were reversed it would have been a different outcome,” said Leslyn Begay, the Diné mother of the 11 and 13 year olds who were assaulted. “If I attacked a Caucasian child I would have gone straight to jail. This white female attacked us and knocked their drums out of their hands and may get away with it. It’s racism. The cops refused my request to arrest her for assault. They gave her a disorderly conduct ticket but refused to charge her with assault or jail her for her actions against my kids.”
The press release also stated that many of the protesters were “visibly shaken” that the disorderly woman was allowed to walk away.
Roberts said that because the officers on the scene weren’t able to determine what happened and the woman did not appear to be a further threat to anyone, whether she would be charged with assault would be up to the city attorney.