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Boycotts promised against Rapid City businesses

RAPID CITY, S.D. - One hundred or so people marched more than a mile to Rapid City Hall and presented demands of the city that if not met will result in economic boycotts of selected businesses.

Led by actor and activist Russell Means, the group gathered at Rapid City's city hall and requested a meeting with the mayor, who was attending a different meeting. Means told the gathering that millions of dollars are spent in Rapid City each year by the American Indian population from nearby reservations, the tribal governments and the many American Indians who reside in the city; it's the financial power that Means said would make the city officials listen.

"We are marching for our ancestors and for Lucas. We want to wake up Rapid City," Means said.

What prompted the march and demands was the shooting and killing of 22-year-old Lucas Ghost Bear on March 9 by city police officer Mark Black. Ghost Bear was shot three times while brandishing a knife and threatening Black.

Three other marches have taken place that all asked for justice for the American Indian population.

"I've been protesting the killing of Indian people for years. Now I'm a grandfather and I'm still protesting killing Indians," Means said.

The demands presented to the city covered a broad range of concerns by the American Indian community, but the first on the list was the demand that Officer Black be fired.

Other demands included the placement of an American Indian person on the city council, finalize investigations of the deaths of 10 American Indians in the city; eight were found on Rapid Creek in the city and two people were bludgeoned to death in their own apartments.

The demands also included the putting of land that is home to many American Indians in what is known as the Sioux Addition into trust.

If the demands are not met, Means said, boycotts will be conducted against one McDonald's restaurant, a Wal-Mart store, and a grocery store owned by Nash Finch, Incorporated, a food distributor.

"This state never learns. We will start a Northern Ireland around here. We have a weapon, it's money, we can keep our money from them," Means said.

He told the crowd that it would take a commitment from the community to maintain the boycotts against the three businesses, but he added that if after a week and their demands were still not met, the boycott would be expanded to include the entire city of Rapid City.

Many tribes in the western part of South Dakota hold meetings in Rapid City at convention hotels and at the city's Civic Center. Large gatherings like basketball tournaments and conventions from tribal and American Indian organizations are frequently held in Rapid City.

Means said the financial result is millions of dollars flowing into the city from the American Indian community.

"We can shop elsewhere, in other towns. We spend more in Rapid City than Ellsworth Air Force Base. Do you understand how much power we have?" Means said.

"The partial boycott is a warning shot."

The American Indian community has not conducted a boycott before, which makes this one very important, Means argues. He said if it was not affective and there was not enough support, political officials will not believe the Indian community in other situations. Support from the entire community will be encouraged.

Jim Preston, Rapid City finance officer who represented the mayor and received the demands, said it was not likely that the city could have much influence on some of the demands like having the Sioux Addition land put into trust. He also said an investigation had been completed and Officer Black was not found at fault in Ghost Bear's death.

Preston said the city council could ask that the investigation of Officer Black be reopened, but he could not predict what the council would do.

As for the other deaths, the Pennington County Sheriff's office and the Rapid City Police Department have the investigations open.

The investigation of Ghost Bear's death found that Officer Black was brought into the situation by a suicidal person and because Ghost Bear who was found to have a .22 blood alcohol level, thrust himself at Black with a knife, broke a window in the police car with his fist and attacked Black with the knife, he was shot three times. All three shots struck Ghost Bear and a shot to the chest served as the death wound, according to the coroner's report.

The written demands claim that Black did not follow at least 50 percent of the police protocol in that particular situation.

Land in the heart of Rapid City that is now a park, was at one time trust land and connected to the Sioux San Hospital, an IHS facility. A land exchange occurred between the city and federal government that would give land to the city if a portion of the city was used to develop an Indian community on the north side of town.

That land, now known as Sioux Addition is not in trust and for many years some people have questioned the wisdom of the land exchange.

Means asserts that Sioux Addition was built in order to remove the Indian people from Rapid City proper. And with jobs tight for American Indians in the community, many families have fallen behind on taxes and developers pick up the property for back taxes to either rent or use for further development, Means said.

"We ask all Indians to join the boycott and all people who are interested in justice. There is no one-man, one-vote in Pennington County. We want Indian people to be represented on the county and city and school boards.