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Protest organizers plan smaller Bear Butte presence

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) - American Indians again plan to have a presence at the upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to protest motorcycle noise, loud music and alcohol consumption around Bear Butte, but the gathering will likely be smaller.

Last year, Indians from around the United States and at least one other country confronted bikers in Sturgis, then walked to the natural land mass outside of town that they consider sacred.

For centuries, Indians from various tribes have come to the butte to pray, fast and hold religious ceremonies. They say noise from the bars and campgrounds disrupts the peace, and they want bikers to avoid those places.

Alex White Plume, former president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is again organizing this year's protest with his wife, but without issuing an invitation to other tribes.

''Last year we invited many nations. But this year we want people to come on their own,'' he said.

There's a gathering planned in Rapid City and an encampment at the base of Bear Butte on land owned by the Northern Cheyenne Tribe along Highway 79, he said.

''Within 4 miles we want to stop all alcohol sales and loud noise and desecration,'' White Plume said.

Efforts to pass such a buffer zone have failed at the county commission and Legislature.

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Tamra Brennan of Sturgis, a member of the committee organizing the encampment, said it should not be considered a protest action.

''We're not going to do any marches or things like that,'' she said. ''This is not a protest at all. It's strictly a peaceful prayer camp.''

Since the 2006 rally, alcohol licenses for several businesses that operate between Sturgis and Bear Butte during the motorcycle rally were renewed by the Meade County Commission.

A license for one place that was at the center of last year's protest was not. Commissioners said they didn't renew the offsite beer license for Sturgis County Line because of unpaid and late payments to construction contractors.

The owner, Jay Allen, can't apply for another year. He will be able to serve alcohol that's consumed at the bar, but can't sell it for offsite consumption.

Allen also owns the Broken Spoke Saloon in Sturgis.

At the June commission hearing, Allen said by telephone that the Sturgis County Line project has been a financial headache, and that some contractors overcharged or didn't finish their jobs.

Allen's representative told commissioners that he is selling his Broken Spoke saloons in New Hampshire and Florida and taken on partners at his Broken Spoke in downtown Sturgis.