The Fort Peck Tribe and Wolf Point-area law enforcement agencies conspired to illegally assemble homeless individuals in July 2013 to prevent them from panhandling throughout a rodeo and parade weekend, according to a civil complaint submitted on behalf of 31 Native Americans.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls, states up to 50 individuals-- this includes two who are disabled-- were handcuffed, transported to prison in crowded automobiles, held in inhumane conditions overnight and released the next day without charges being submitted.
Those involved are seeking damages for physical and psychological injuries and civil rights violations arising from the mass arrest and detention during the Wild Horse Stampede. The complaint names the Wolf Point police chief and city board, two Bureau of Indian Affairs agents, numerous tribal officials and the Roosevelt County sheriff and county attorney.
“The (tribal) Law and Justice Committee told the police officers, ‘Do something about these homeless street people during the Wild Horse Stampede Rodeo,'” Mary Cleland, a tribal court lay advocate who is assisting the plaintiffs, told the Great Falls Tribune. “They didn’t even issue any paperwork. They verbally told the captain of the police, ‘Get them out of sight. Put them anywhere, and don’t charge them.’ ” Officers “just went around grabbing people like they were animals,” Cleland stated.
Floyd Azure, chairman of the Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board, didn't return an e-mail straight away from The Associated Press on Wednesday who were looking to discuss the claims.
The males and females who were detained were positioned into 2 outdoor recreation locations surrounded by a chain link fence after the prison in Poplar ended up being full, the grievance stated.
The detainees did not have appropriate food, water, toilet centers or healthcare, the grievance said. The prison's water and drain system was under repair at the time.
" That day was hot," Cleland stated. "Individuals were losing consciousness from heat fatigue. They were not fed correctly and they were not provided mattresses or jail uniforms. They entered their street clothes and they just tossed them in there like pets in a chain-linked workout court exposed to the elements."
Jail staff supposedly aimed to mitigate the heat by covering a portion of the exercise lawns with large plastic tarps but a thunderstorm tore the tarpaulins and exposed them to rain. The females were kept in the detention center over night while the males were housed in a garage. They were released the next early morning.
Cleland stated the Bureau of Indian Affairs investigated in April 2014 and found multiple infractions, however nothing was done to correct the abuse. Special Agent Angela King declined to discuss her investigation. BIA spokesperson Nedra Darling did not immediately react to an AP demand for discuss King's findings.
The complaint stated there were individuals who knew ahead of time of the planned round up and did nothing to stop it.
Anna Rose Sullivan, city attorney for Wolf Point and the deputy Roosevelt County lawyer, informed the newspaper she might not comment since she had actually not seen the suit, but stated officials are taking the claims seriously.
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