Call for investigation into border wall dispute

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has called for an investigation into the state Department of Public Safety's use of tear gas on protesters who blocked traffic near a border crossing on Oct. 12, 2020. (Screen shot courtesy of Rafael Samanez's Vimeo video)

The Associated Press

‘The use of tear gas on O’odham and fellow American citizens exercising their sacred constitutional right to protest is utterly appalling’

Associated Press

The Tohono O’odham Nation has condemned law enforcement for using tear gas on citizens Monday near the U.S. border, and a Democratic congressman is calling for an investigation.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has called for an investigation into the Arizona Department of Public Safety's use of tear gas on protesters who blocked traffic near a border crossing.

The roughly two minute video of the incident was posted Monday online. The video shows the state’s Department of Public Safety officers in riot gear, gas masks and helmets with shields as protesters chant in the background. The troopers, armed with wooden sticks, then move toward the protesters, who begin to disperse after officers start firing projectiles.

“The use of tear gas on O’odham and fellow American citizens exercising their sacred constitutional right to protest is utterly appalling, and not something that should be tolerated in our democracy,” Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said in a statement. “For years, I and other O’odham leaders have been raising the alarm about the very issues that are the root of this travesty - the wanton destruction of burial and other sites that are sacred to the Tohono O’odham, and that should be protected by law.”

The demonstrators protested Monday on Indigenous Peoples Day against the construction of the Trump administration's border wall on sacred Native American land in southern Arizona.

Two groups from the Tohono O’odham nation created a blockade on the Arizona State Route 85, halting traffic between the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and an immigration checkpoint.

“Those responsible for this egregious display of excessive force against peaceful protestors, who are members of the Tohono O’odham Nation and their allies, must be held responsible,” Grijalva said.

The Department of Public Safety said its troopers gave a dispersal order telling protesters they had five minutes to leave the area. The agency said protesters continued to ignore their orders.

“As a result of protesters’ failure to comply with a lawful order, troopers deployed smoke from canisters as a means to gain compliance,” DPS spokesperson Bart Graves wrote in a statement to the Arizona Republic. “The protesters remained steadfast. Troopers then deployed tear gas to get the protestors off the highway.”

A protester is seen trying to kick what appears to be a smoke canister off the highway.

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has called for an investigation into the state Department of Public Safety's use of tear gas on protesters who blocked traffic near a border crossing on Oct. 12, 2020. (Screen shot courtesy of Rafael Samanez's Vimeo video) https://vimeo.com/467449845
Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has called for an investigation into the state Department of Public Safety's use of tear gas on protesters who blocked traffic near a border crossing on Oct. 12, 2020. (Screen shot courtesy of Rafael Samanez's Vimeo video)

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that President Donald Trump’s use of military funds to pay for the construction of a border wall was illegal, which upheld a Dec. 2019 ruling from a federal judge.

The decision means the administration must halt construction on 11 border wall projects across the country, including four in Arizona.

Indian Country Today contributed to this report

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