New Year's Round Dance Provokes Arrest and Dissent

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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.”