On May 18, 1997, New York State troopers in full riot gear, with covered badges, stormed Onondaga Nation land along Rt. 81, and in a disgusting display of brutality, comparable to the violence seen at 1960’s civil rights protests, unlawfully arrested and assaulted 98 people, including several elders and children. Furthermore, the incident was initiated during a prayer ceremony.
The people, a mix of folks from all Haudenosaunee territories, had attended a peaceful gathering on privately-owned land near the highway 81 to discuss issues that would greatly impact the entire Haudenosaunee confederacy. Although they had every right to assemble, practice their ceremonies, and have their voices heard, they were invaded, indiscriminately manhandled, and several of them viciously beaten and arrested.
Fast-forward 20 years later, the victims still have not seen justice. Out of the 98 original, a majority, perhaps disheartened from the questionable integrity of their lawyers and exhausted from a years of uneventful hearings, signed a settlement agreement: A total of 3 million dollars would be awarded to the 98 people who were arrested, beaten, and otherwise violated by state troopers on May 18th, 1997. However, the stipulation was that ALL plaintiffs must sign.
However, 16 of those 98 plaintiffs refused to jump on the proverbial bone that the state was throwing them. The fact that offering 3 million dollars to 98 people (some who continue to suffer from there injuries) is a slap in the face, is besides the point. They want those who mercilessly bashed our men with batons, slammed our elders to the ground, and arrested our children for exercising their rights, to be held accountable, and attention brought to their detestable actions-- particularly to those who led the brutal attack.
The trial has been pushed back for so many years that the statute of limitations has expired, and now the plaintiffs are unable to pursue criminal charges against the state troopers. At this point, the most they can hope for is a fair civil trial.
The sad part, or rather another sad part, is because they wouldn’t sign the settlement, and insisted on going to trial, their high-priced lawyers withdrew themselves from the case, leaving the 16 high and dry. So the plaintiffs, none who have law-degrees, are representing themselves pro se. They are being put at the mercy of a court system that has historically worked against Indigenous people.
One of the plaintiffs, knowing that the court system will be working against her said, “All I can do is go in and speak the truth, and tell them what I saw, that’s all I can do.”
How you can help:
The trial is being held all day, almost every weekday, for 3 weeks. The costs associated with loss of pay (from not being able to work during the trial), the traveling expenses (particularly for those traveling from far outside the area), meals, parking, and even the charges of filing paperwork and issuing subpoenas are proving to a huge financial burden for many of the plaintiffs, many who were struggling even before the trial.
We are hoping to gather enough funds to provide meals, gas money, parking, and cover any additional costs associated with the trial. Hopefully this will help to take stress off an already extremely stressful situation.