The American Indian Movement held a peaceful protest outside the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Wednesday to raise awareness of several racially motivated incidents that have occurred there recently.
On January 24, a group of 57 Native American students were harassed at the civic center when unnamed suspects poured beer on them and told the students to “go back to the reservation.”
Activist Cody Hall told Tessa Thomas of Rapid City Fox News affiliate KEVN that they were there to bring attention to the incident and to encourage equality.
"We just want to be treated equal,” he said. “We come here; we have people that live here; we're in it with society here. We're not asking for any better treatment or less treatment. It's just we need to be seen equal, and we're not."
Several weeks after the incident with the students, a Native American woman said she, too, was the victim of a racially motivated attack at the civic center.
Kristen Hunter said she and several friends were at the civic center on February 2 to watch a bull riding competition when someone threw a beer at her from behind. The beer also struck several Lakota elders sitting near Hunter.
"We were enjoying the bull riding and as I was attempting to film the next rider when we had beer thrown at us from above," Hunter wrote on her Facebook wall. "Is it even safe to even go to the civic center? Along with my friends a couple of Lakota elderly men and a Caucasian elderly couple were hit as well."
Hunter had been filming a rider at the time of the attack and posted the video to her Facebook wall. Police probed the incident, but have not been able to name any suspects.
Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Executive Director Craig Baltzer told Tom Griffith of the Rapid City Journal there are theories the person who threw the beer at Hunter was a copy-cat – someone who is aware of the ongoing investigation regarding the beer hurled at the Native American students last month.
Baltzer said he has added more security at the civic center on weekends due to the recent increase of harassments.