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New Year's Round Dance Provokes Arrest and Dissent
Thursday, January 09 2014
 
Written by Alfred Walking Bull,
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What was initially planned as a New Year's Eve celebration round dance on the one-year anniversary of an Idle No More solidarity demonstration turned into confrontation between Native American activists and Mall of America management.

Security was on high alert on New Year's Eve, asking patrons to open their coats and checking bags at every entrance. At the west parking entrance, security also asked patrons for identification before entering the shopping complex. The increased presence was used to identify any individuals carrying a hand drum for the aborted round dance.

Organizers Patricia Shepard, Idle No More-Minnesota, and Reyna Crow, Idle No More Duluth, were arrested and charged with criminal trespassing after refusing to leave, directly after a press conference held outside of the Mall of America. They were released later that evening but their arrest sparked outrage from Native activists from across the region.

“What is sad is the two women tried to explain that the American Indian community simply wanted to do a round dance as the New Year is coming in. The round dance was not a protest,” Sarah LittleRedfeather Kalmanson, Idle No More-Wisconsin said. “The Idle No More New Years Eve Round Dance is in honor of healing and renewal of relationship between our Communities and in honor of the Dakota 38, Wounded Knee, Chief Theresa Spence, and the four founding women of Idle No More: Nina Waste, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah Mclean, and Jessica Gordon.”

In December 2012, Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Canada began a hunger strike in response to the Canadian parliament's budget omnibus bill, C-45, which she contended contended was an erosion of tribal treaty rights. Her actions sparked international solidarity demonstrations from indigenous populations. In the Twin Cities area, Native activists gathered en masse at the Mall of America to execute a round dance in solidarity with the Idle No More movement.

According to a press release leading up to the 2013 event, the two organizers reached out to management on Dec. 30, but were refused a meeting with mall officials.

In a letter, dated Dec. 23 and sent to organizers affiliated with Idle No More in the state and the Twin Cities, the Mall of America management team forewarned of possible arrest. “Any attempt by your group to conduct a protest is a violation of MOA policies and will subject your group to removal from MOA property, and potential arrest by the City of Bloomington police department. Although your group attempted a gathering last year on MOA property, a similar attempt will not be tolerated and we will utilize additional actions to prohibit any such gathering, including trespassing the organizers of the protest. The Idle No More group caused disruption to our customers, tenants and employees, and resulted in a significant commitment of time and resources by our security and management teams. The protest was in violation of our policies governing protests and demonstrations at Mall of America, and we will not condone or sanction any event. Mall of America is a private commercial retail center, and we prohibit all forms of protest, demonstration, and public debate, including political activity aimed at organizing political or social groups. The issue was litigated in City of Bloomington vs. Freeman Wicklund, et al.”

Shepard was undeterred, releasing a statement, “The global disconnection and historical pain within our communities and Mother Earth has called for healing, and renewal for the coming New Year, 2014."

"We don't allow protests in Mall of America and haven't in 21 years," Maureen Bausch, Executive Vice President of Business Development said to press. "It clearly did not have to happen."

While the Shepard and Crow made the attempt, organizers from Idle No More-Twin Cities and AIM of Twin Cities cited the danger of arrest to singers and dancer as the reason for withdrawal from the event in social media updates. “We have consulted our Elders on this issue and they have deemed it unnecessary for our people to be arrested for an unclear cause. Creative differences have caused bad blood and the Round Dance is not predicated on good terms.”


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