House rep seeks probe into police response to Native protest

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A line of around 50 demonstrators holds one end of a rope while the other end is secured to a stone obelisk on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In July, activists called for the monument to be removed during peaceful protests. On Monday, a group of around 50 protesters pulled down segments of the memorial, which commemorates federal soldiers who fought against Indigenous people in the 19th Century. A reference to "savage" Indians was chiseled from the monument decades ago. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio)

Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona has called for an investigation into the state Department of Public Safety’s use of tear gas on protesters who blocked traffic near a border crossing.

The demonstrators protested Monday on Indigenous Peoples Day against the construction of the Trump administration’s border wall on sacred Native American land in southern Arizona.

Two groups from the Tohono O’odham nation created a blockade on the Arizona State Route 85, halting traffic between the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and an immigration checkpoint.

“Those responsible for this egregious display of excessive force against peaceful protestors, who are members of the Tohono O’odham Nation and their allies, must be held responsible,” Grijalva said.

The state Department of Public Safety said its troopers gave a dispersal order telling protesters they had five minutes to leave the area. The agency said protesters continued to ignore their orders.

“As a result of protesters’ failure to comply with a lawful order, troopers deployed smoke from canisters as a means to gain compliance,” DPS spokesperson Bart Graves wrote in a statement to the Arizona Republic. “The protesters remained steadfast. Troopers then deployed tear gas to get the protestors off the highway.”

Video posted on social media shows state Department of Public Safety officers in riot gear, gas masks, and helmets with shields as protesters chant in the background. The troopers, armed with wooden sticks, then move toward the protesters, who begin to disperse after officers start firing projectiles.

A protester is seen trying to kick what appears to be a smoke canister off the highway.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last Friday that President Donald Trump’s use of military funds to pay for the construction of a border wall was illegal, which upheld a Dec. 2019 ruling from a federal judge.

Republished with the permission of the Associated Press.