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American Indian Movement's Clyde Bellecourt arrested in Mpls for seemingly little reason [VIDEO]

Bellecourt was arrested for sitting around Crystal Court while a protest was taking place.
Bellecourt was arrested for sitting around Crystal Court while a protest was taking place.

On Christmas Eve, longtime American Indian activist Clyde Bellecourt was arrested in the IDS Center's Crystal Court following an Idle No More indigenous rights protest that featured a flash mob dance. Officers said they arrested Bellecourt, 75, after they repeatedly asked him to leave the building.

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But Bellecourt says he was simply sitting around and drinking a cup of coffee he had just purchased while waiting for his son to finish shopping when police approached him. He says he had no part in organizing the protest, though he supports the protesters' cause.

In the late 1960s, Bellecourt co-founded the American Indian Movement. His longtime lawyer, Larry Leventhal, told the Star Tribune that Bellecourt's Christmas Eve arrest was entirely about his reputation and had nothing to do with anything he was doing that afternoon while sitting in the Crystal Court.

Leventhal described the Crystal Court as a public space and told the Strib his client "had a right to be there."

Bellecourt "was singled out," Leventhal added.

A press release written by the One Heart One Mind Interpretative Center provides more context:

Bellecourt was uninvolved with the organizing of the event and was informed of the Round Dance only moments before it happened. Bellecourt arrived late to the event and stayed to watch the dancing. While sitting peacefully on a mall bench, Bellecourt was approached by Minneapolis police and asked to leave.

Bellecourt stated repeatedly that he was not involved with the organizing and he did not know who had organized the event; he was only at IDS to shop. Despite this, he was told to leave or he would be arrested. No one else was asked to leave at this point.

After the Round Dance ended, Bellecourt returned to buy a cup of coffee alone when he was approached by police officers who seized his cane, forced him to the floor, and then tried to lift him solely by his handcuffs. Bellecourt is 75 and cannot easily get up and down without assistance, which was denied to him. Bellecourt was unable to stand up and leave IDS on his own so officers arrested Bellecourt and transported him on a stretcher. Bellecourt is now being held at Hennepin County Jail.

Here's video of officers loading Bellecourt onto a stretcher before hauling him to jail:

MPD spokesman Sergeant Stephen McCarty told the Strib that "Police asked [Bellecourt] to leave and everybody left except him." According to Leventhal, before Bellecourt was arrested, officers approached him and asked him, as an AIM leader, to help stop the protest dance. In response, Bellecourt told them: "I'm not colonized yet and I don't do your work for you."

Bellecourt was released from custody after spending a few hours in Hennepin County Jail. A Minneapolis AIM Facebook post from Christmas Eve evening says Bellecourt "has a couple bruises on his wrist, and Clyde says he stands in solidarity with the people of Canada and the Idle No More Movement."

Some background about the Idle No More Movement that was born in Canada and has since spread into the United States comes via the Ottawa Citizen:

In the summers of 1905 and 1906, treaty commissioners from Ottawa, who spoke on behalf of King Edward VII, travelled north to negotiate with aboriginal leaders in order to "open for settlement, immigration, trade, travel, mining, lumbering, and such other purposes as to His Majesty may seem meet, a tract of country."...

According to the text of Treaty 9, the "reserves were set apart for them in order that they might have a tract in which they could not be molested, and where no white man would have any claims without the consent of their tribe and of the government."...

Bill C-45, the Conservative government's omnibus budget bill which passed earlier this month, contains changes to the Navigable Waters Act, including waterways in First Nations territory. It also makes it easier to sell reserve land to non-natives.

There are a host of other bills coming down the pipe which leaders say take power away from First Nations leadership and put it in the hands of the federal government, thereby contravening the treaties and the nation-to-nation relationship.

An Idle No More protest and dance similar to the one in the Crystal Court took place in Duluth's Miller Hill Mall on Saturday, though there were no arrests in connection with that event.

"It's a show of support; we believe in no boundaries," one protestor who took part in the Miller Hill Mall told the Duluth News Tribune.

Bellecourt is considering a wrongful arrest lawsuit, his lawyer said.


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