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Know the West

Charges dropped for Black Hills protesters

After months of organizing, charges against Nick Tilsen, NDN Collective president and CEO, and all others arrested will be dropped.

 

Nick Tilsen, president and CEO of NDN Collective, at the July 3, 2020 protest at the Black Hills, South Dakota.

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BACKSTORY
In July 2020, 21 protesters, mostly Indigenous, were arrested when President Donald Trump visited Mount Rushmore. A confrontation ensued: The Air National Guard, dressed in riot gear, fired pepper balls, and Nick Tilsen (Oglala Lakota), president and CEO of the Indigenous nonprofit NDN Collective, took a National Guard riot shield, which was later returned with the slogan “LAND BACK” spray-painted over the word “POLICE.” If convicted, Tilsen faced up to 16 ½ years in prison (“The battle for the Black Hills,” 1/1/21).

[RELATED:https://www.hcn.org/issues/53.1/indigenous-affairs-social-justice-the-battle-for-the-black-hills]

FOLLOWUP
In late March, charges against Tilsen and the other protesters were dropped, according to a news release from NDN Collective. A final charge against Tilsen will be dropped once he completes a diversion program. “Tens of thousands organized, called, donated to our legal and bail fund and signed the petitions to drop these charges, and we acknowledge their invaluable support,” said the release. Tilsen credited his fellow land defenders’ hard work: “We organized, we fought, and we backed them into a corner.”