Pine Ridge beer blockade ends in arrests 6-28-07

PINE RIDGE, S.D. (AP/ICC) One year after a failed attempt to confiscate beer headed to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, tribal members planned to put up another blockade June 28th, but it lasted only a few minutes.

It's the latest attempt to stop bootlegging from four stores in nearby Whiteclay, Nebraska, that sell an estimated four million of cans of beer every year, mostly to American Indians.

The intention was to stop all vehicles on the highway between Whiteclay and Pine Ridge.

If the occupants acknowledge having alcohol or it's visible, roadblock volunteers plan to confiscate it and pour it out.

Otherwise they'll be allowed through.

According to the Rapid City Journal , the blockade began shortly after 11 a.m. and was stopped just minutes later when OST Police Chief James Twiss said the blockade was causing safety concerns because of people standing in the middle of the road or on the sides.

Twiss said the way the activists were conducting the blockade was dangerous.

The blockade was led by Duane Martin Sr. of the Strong Heart Civil Rights Movement of the Teton Oglala Cante Tenza and Mark Vasina of Nebraskans for Peace.

"We support what they're trying to accomplish, but we can't let it go because of safety issues," Twiss said. "If something happens and someone doesn't stop or someone gets run over, we're (law enforcement) going to be responsible."

Twiss said earlier this week he discussed ways to conduct the blockade but never finalized an agreement.

Martin, Twiss and Daniel Sheehan, an attorney for the Lakota People's Law Project, discussed other ways of handling the blockade Thursday after Twiss ordered it stopped.

Talks went on for about 30 minutes and it seemed a peaceful resolution was in sight according to the Rapid City Journal, but when Twiss and his officers ordered everyone off the sides of the highway, Martin allegedly put up a fight.

Law-enforcement officers said they warned Martin several times before arresting him.

Holding a traditional American Indian staff originally placed at the blockade site in a ceremonial manner, Martin struggled against at least eight law-enforcement officers, all the time yelling Lakota words.

As Martin was cuffed, longtime activist Russell Means got involved. It took several officers to wrestle Means to the ground where he was also cuffed. At least two other people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.