Indian Country Today
Greg Grey Cloud never rushed the U.S. Capitol.
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe citizen never damaged any building property, or trespassed onto the House or Senate floor for a selfie.
But he still got arrested and removed from the Capitol for peacefully demonstrating his approval of a Senate vote six years ago.
On Nov. 18, 2014, a 28-year-old Grey Cloud watched from the Senate chamber gallery, a designated area for the public, as lawmakers considered oil pipeline legislation
When the bill failed as Grey Cloud had hoped, he offered the room a traditional song of peace. The measure, which would have authorized continuation of the Keystone XL Pipeline, fell one vote shy of approval.
“That was a perfect song to sing for those leaders who stood for us and listened to the people, and heard our struggle. And so I wanted to honor them in that way,” Grey Cloud recalled.
The song made lawmakers on the Senate floor pause briefly.
The song landed Grey Cloud in jail.
(Related: Use of force: Capitol vs. Standing Rock)
Wednesday’s violence at the Capitol didn’t go unnoticed by Grey Cloud. He watched on TV from his ranch work on the Rosebud reservation in South Dakota.
As the Capitol chaos unfolded and a violent mob backing President Donald Trump basically did what it wanted inside for hours, Grey Cloud said he didn’t see the type of police force on display that he faced in 2014. The mob easily breached the Capitol, some breaking into Congress members’ offices, some stealing federal property, while others sat in chairs on the House and Senate floors. Photos and videos of the mob went viral on social media.
The fallout from Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol continues as reports of Capitol Police turning down National Guard and FBI help surfaced. At least 68 people have been arrested, 41 of them on Capitol grounds, according to reports. The Capitol Police chief resigned under pressure, along with other security leaders. Five people have died because of the rampage, including a police officer, according to The Associated Press.
The 16-acre Capitol complex is policed by a total of 2,300 officers, but it’s unclear how many officers were on patrol during the riot, according to the AP.
(Related: Indigenous Congress members condemn violence)
Grey Cloud questioned the lack of immediate action against the mob. Where were the Capitol Police?
In 2014, Grey Cloud had permission to be in the Senate gallery. He went through the proper channels to be in attendance in hopes of a decision rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline bill. Earlier that day, he received a gallery pass from a senator representing his home state of South Dakota.
A roughly 70-second video posted on YouTube shows the Senate, led by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, narrowly voting down the pipeline bill. Twenty-three seconds into the video, Grey Cloud can be heard breaking into song. Warren then quickly asks for law enforcement to step in and calls for “order in the gallery.” Grey Cloud is heard singing for about 20 seconds before another group starts a “No KXL” chant, and the video cuts out.
Grey Cloud said four police officers forcefully grabbed him as he sang.
“I was kind of vigorously and roughly escorted off,” Grey Cloud recalls. “I was pulled and dragged through and over people.”
Police took Grey Cloud into the hallway and escorted him through the building and outside. A police vehicle then came and took him to jail, where he sat for about five hours. A group of college students was also in the gallery opposing the pipeline, and four of them were also arrested, Grey Cloud said.
Grey Cloud faced serious charges and had multiple court appearances spread out for nearly 18 months, he said, before the judge finally dismissed the case. Grey Cloud said he wasn’t allowed back at the Capitol during the legal process. Once it was over, he said he went back with gifts for some of the senators who voted down the pipeline bill.
On social media, people were quick to mention the stark difference of treatment Grey Cloud faced compared to the mob that stormed the Capitol.
Others tagged Grey Cloud on Facebook and shared a photo of his 2014 arrest at the Capitol. One public post had 4,000 shares and showed Grey Cloud being escorted out.
On Thursday, Grey Cloud, cofounder of Wica Agli, a nonprofit aiming to create healthy communities and help Lakota men learn ancestral teachings of responsibilities, posted a short Facebook video explaining his thoughts on what was happening at the Capitol with the Trump supporters. It had more than 100 comments. He said he saw firsthand the double standard of treatment.
“These guys are trespassing, breaking things and destructing property, and nothing is happening to them,” Grey Cloud said. “How they treated us at that time was way different, the complete opposite from how they're treating the Trump protesters.”
Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter: @daltonwalker Walker is based in Phoenix and enjoys Arizona winters.
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