Sunday, September 9, 2012

ACLU intervenes in targeting of AIM and 'No Bear Hunt'

 
Photo Mark Smith
ACLU intervenes after AIM and 'No Bear Hunt' activists are tracked, harassed and jailed by law enforcement after speaking out


By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
http://www.bsnorrell.blogspot.com

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information request to find out what the FBI has reported on the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Indian Movement and the group No Bear Hunt. AIM is opposing the hunting of bears, based on the spiritual teachings of the Paiute, Washoe and Shoshone.

Raquela Arthur, Pyramid Lake Paiute and AIM member, told Censored News, “We requested help from the ACLU because our rights have been violated, including our right to the First Amendment, freedom of speech.”

“We want the harassments, racial profiling, false incarcerations and intimidation tactics to stop. We are Native Americans that promote a peaceful fight in our fight to save our sacred bears. Its a sad day that Native Americans still have to fight for our basic rights.”

Bear hunt opponents said they were watched at home and harassed by federal agents after speaking out. Among those targeted by law enforcement was Lisa Bonta.

Lisa Bonta and her husband, Johnny Bonta, a Reno Sparks Indian Colony member, were the victims of a hate crime and beaten by skinheads in Fenley, Nev., on May 24, 2011. This case is proceeding to federal court.

Then,  after speaking out against the bear hunt in 2012, Bonta was arrested and jailed, without any charges being filed.

Bonta said, “I was arrested without a warrant and held in jail for four days. They released me with no charges. I was drugged in the infirmary and told I was going to be put on suicide watch! Then I was released and driven home by Washoe County sheriff. I had no charges."

"My paperwork says default at booking. I am an activist for our Native people! I spoke using my first amendment rights and they labeled me as a terrorist!” said Bonta. She added that she is not a member of Northern Nevada AIM as stated in some news reports.

At public meetings, several Native Americans from various Paiute Tribes were present and spoke on the record in opposition to the Bear Hunt for religious reasons, stating that the black bear was a sacred animal to them, and that to kill one for sport was the same as burning a Bible would be to a Christian, Northern Nevada AIM said in a statement.

Shortly thereafter, during the period April 2-4, FBI agents visited and questioned two of the Native Americans who spoke at the open public meetings, by arriving at their homes and places of work.


Native American Daniel Thayer was visited by federal agents at his place of work on April 3, and was told that the Nevada Department of Wildlife had requested an investigation because the “audience felt threatened” by his presence, and was similarly questioned. On April 4, another Native American, Raquela Arthur, saw federal agents watching and carrying out surveillance on her private residence, AIM said.

Arthur told Censored News that the bear is sacred to Indian people in northern Nevada.

“The bears has always been sacred to us Natives in Nevada. We are the Paiutes, Washoes, who reside along the Tahoe Basin, and Shoshone. We all honor bears with bear dances. We see the bear as our healers, and to see a bear is a blessing and we would sing to them. Bears have a significant place in our ceremonies. It is like the eagle being the prominent winged animal, well the bear has the status as the four legged animal. The bear carries many medicines that are being taken away from us with these hunts,” Arthur said.

"The hunts are open to hunting in the south of Tahoe, the pine nut hills where many Indians families take their family to pick pine nuts. This can be a disaster since the hunters are angry at us American Indians for joining the fight.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information request on Aug. 22 to find our what federal agents have reported about AIM of Northern Nevada and the group “No Bear Hunt,” said ACLU legal chief Staci Pratt. The ACLU wants to know what information the FBI has collected about people who spoke out against the bear hunts in public meetings.

The Associated Press also reported the story this week: http://www.northjersey.com/news/crime_courts/168983756_ACLU_wants_FBI_records_about_Nevada_bear_hunt_foes.html?c=y&page=2

The ACLU said in a statement, “One of the most cherished values we have as a nation is that those who engage in peaceful political speech, in public forums, are deserving of the fullest protections afforded by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Verbally opposing the hunting of bears should never lead to harassment by law enforcement officials,” stated Staci Pratt, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “We aim to discover the full extent of the FBI’s efforts and ensure that there is accountability for investigatory behaviors that do not accord with the Constitution.”

The FOIA requests any records related to surveillance of expressive activity during public meetings of the Nevada Wildlife Commission on March 23-24, 2012, and the public meeting of the Washoe County Wildlife Advisory Board on March 15, 2012.

The ACLU seeks any records related to contact with and investigation of Native Americans or AIM members during the period of April 2 -- 4, 2012.

The ACLU also seeks any records related to the arrest, incarceration, and questioning of Lisa Bonta, and the related effort to force her to sign documentation about alleged “terrorist” activity or membership in targeted organizations.

"The FOIA request also seeks any records since January 2005 related to the FBI conducting assessments, training, legal opinions, policies, final memoranda, and other material related to individual Native Americans in Nevada; the American Indian Movement, No Bear Hunt Nevada, and other Native American organizations in Nevada; and environmental organizations in Nevada, especially but not only under the FBI’s Domestic Investigative Operations Guidelines," the ACLU said.

"Some events that prompted this FOIA request were previously reported on by various news media, in the following stories: “FBI Probes Native Americans Opposed Nevada Bear Hunt,” Indian Voices, April 2012; “American Indians Questioned About Nevada Bear Hunt by FBI,” Reno Gazette-Journal, April 11, 2012; and “Native Americans Join Fight vs. Nevada Bear Hunt,” Associated Press, March 23, 2012. Versions of the Associated Press article were published or posted in the Las Vegas Sun, Censored News, and YubaNet.com, among other media outlets."

“It is extremely disturbing that the FBI has apparently chosen to treat peaceful Native Americans who have legitimate issues with various hunting practices and environmental policies as if they are, or are potential, domestic terrorists,” said Dane S. Claussen, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “Surely the FBI in northern Nevada has better things to do with its time and taxpayer dollars," the ACLU said.

AIM of northern Nevada released this statement on April 11, 2012:

Following their appearance at the March Wildlife Commission meeting, where they stated their opposition to the bear hunt on religious grounds, Native Americans from various Paiute Tribes the Pyramid Lake Paiute Band we were recently questioned by FBI and U.S. Marshalls.

FBI Agent, George Chillito, an FBI agent with the Task Force on Counter-Terrorism in Reno, reportedly stated that he was investigating the Native Americans at the request of Nevada Department of Wildlife game wardens because the “game wardens” and the “audience felt threatened” by the presence of the Native Americans at the March Wildlife Commission meeting.

Several Native Americans appeared at the Wildlife Commission meeting held on March 23 and March 24 (“meetings”), and at the Washoe County Advisory Board Meeting held on March 15, to oppose the bear hunt, adopted in December 2010. Shortly after the Commission meeting, FBI agents and U.S. Federal Marshals began appearing at the homes and places of work of the Native Americans, and questioning them about why they opposed the bear hunt, and what were they going to do if the bear hunt continued, etc.

At the meetings, several Native Americans from various Paiute Tribes were present and spoke on the record in opposition to the Bear Hunt for religious reasons, stating that the black bear was a sacred animal to them, and that to kill one for sport was the same as burning a Bible would be to a Christian.

Shortly thereafter, during the period April 2-4, FBI agents visited and questioned two of the Native Americans who spoke at the open public meetings, by arriving at their homes and places of work.


 Native American  Daniel Thayer was visited by federal agents at his place of work on April 3, and was told that the Nevada Department of Wildlife had requested an investigation because the “audience felt threatened” by his presence, and was similarly questioned. On April 4, another Native American, Raquela Arthur, saw federal agents watching and carrying out surveillance on her private residence.

When independently contacted, one Nevada Department of Wildlife staff member stated that he had no knowledge of any request by the Nevada Department of Wildlife for the FBI to investigate Native American opponents of the Bear hunt.

Mr. Chilito is reported to have said that he was also investigating members of
www.NoBearHuntNV.org who were present at the meetings, and who have been peacefully and professionally opposing the bear hunt since December 2010 by working within the NDOW public process without incident. Many members of the press from TV and newspapers were also present at the meetings, and were interviewing both Native Americans and members of NoBearHuntNV.org throughout the day. A video of the Commission meeting, and the testimony of the Native Americans, is posted on the Nevada Department of Wildlife website.

This FBI intimidation comes on the heels of alleged racial slurs directed at the Native Americans when they spoke at the Washoe County Advisory Board held on March 15th.

The  Native Americans questioned are members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) of Northern Nevada, a recently registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. AIM members call for NDOW to conduct an internal investigation and to make public who made the request to the FBI, on what grounds it was made, and why the Director of Nevada Department of Wildlife supported such a request.


 

 

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