‘You are on stolen land’: Native American protesters face off with National Guard and police after blocking a road leading to Mount Rushmore ahead of Trump’s Independence Day speech
- Protesters, mostly Native Americans, blocked a road leading to Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota
- The blockade was formed hours before President Trump arrived to deliver his Independence Day speech
- Demonstrators climbed on top of the vans chanting ‘Land back!’ Police and National Guard soldiers moved in
Dozens of protesters faced off with the National Guard and police officers in Keystone, South Dakota on Friday after crowds blocked off a road leading to Mount Rushmore ahead of President Donald Trump’s arrival.
Activists and members of different Native American tribes gathered on a highway protesting the occupation of South Dakota’s Black Hills that they say were taken from the Lakota people against treaty agreements.
One group parked three vans across the road and took the tires from two of them to make it more difficult to remove them.
Several demonstrators climbed on top of the vans chanting ‘Land back!’
Police and National Guard soldiers moved in and a standoff ensued, with police using pepper spray on several protesters. Tow trucks then began removing the vans from the road.
The confrontation unfolded hours before Trump’s planned fiery Fourth of July speech at the national monument including denunciations of protesters he says are trying to ‘tear down’ the nation’s history.
Activists and members of different tribes from the region block a road as they protest in Keystone, South Dakota on Friday
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump disembark from Air Force One upon arrival at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota
He added the condemnation of those who pull down statues to a big fireworks show and his more traditional July Fourth praise of America’s past and values.
The president has spoken forcefully against other protesters in Washington, D.C., and other cities who have tried to topple Confederate monuments and statues honoring those who have benefited from slavery.
He planned to target ‘the left wing mob and those practicing cancel culture,’ said a person familiar with his remarks and describing them only on condition of anonymity.
The president was to preside over a fireworks display at an event expected to draw thousands, even as coronavirus cases spike across the country.
Trump was expecting a South Dakota show of support, with the state Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump on the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.
But concern about the coronavirus risk and wildfire danger from the fireworks, along with the Native American groups’ protests were also present.
Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, has said social distancing won’t be required during the event and masks will be optional.
Event organizers were to provide masks to anyone who wanted them and planned to screen attendees for symptoms of COVID-19.
Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are greeted by South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Senator John Thune
Noem and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., were among the crowd meeting the president and First Lady Melania Trump at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Noem wasn’t wearing a mask; Thune removed his face covering as he waited to greet the president.
The Republican mayor of the largest city near the monument, Rapid City, said he would be watching for an increase in cases after the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Enthusiastic attendees were unlikely to disqualify themselves ‘because they developed a cough the day of or the day before,’ Mayor Steve Allender said.
The small town of Keystone, which lies a couple of miles from the monument, was buzzing with people Friday hoping to catch a glimpse of the fireworks and the president. Many wore pro-Trump T-shirts and hats. Few wore masks.
‘This is going to rank up in the top Fourth of Julys that I talk about,’ said Mike Stewhr, who brought his family from Nebraska.
Mike Harris of Rapid City, who said he was a Republican, wore a mask and waved an anti-Trump flag. He also was sporting a handgun on each hip. He said he was worried the event would spark a COVID-19 outbreak.
‘I think it’s a bad example being set by our president and our governor,’ Harris said.