By Arturo R. García
The advocacy group Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry (EONM), which has been involved in the ongoing campaign against the Washington, D.C. football team’s name, posted some disturbing footage last week of two Native Americans being accosted and forcibly restrained by members of the San Francisco Police Department?
Their apparent crime? Asking a baseball fan to show some sensitivity.
According to EONM, Kimball Bighorse and April Negrette were at the San Francisco Giants’ “Native American Heritage Night” on June 24 when they were told about one fan wearing a fake “headdress” to the game.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no,'” Negrette said in a radio interview with United Native Americans Executive Director Quanah Parker Brightman. “So I turn and look, and it’s this guy in a fake plastic war bonnet. Blue, red crap store feathers, all of that.”
Bighorse wrote in a separate statement that he and Negrette, along with an unidentified third Native fan in their group, went to talk to the man about the offensive garment:
My role was mostly to protect the young woman as she spoke her mind very forcefully, and even tearfully, and I talked to the fans too, in a firm but peaceful way. The other man snuck up behind the fans and took away the warbonnet, and it ended up in the young woman’s possession. The fans were actually apologetic and offered to give it to her. Except then they also justified it since they said it belonged to a friend in their party who was Native American.
The young woman was dissatisfied with that and proceeded to speak with the Native man, and we both tried to explain to them that that didn’t make it ok. He eventually said he was Choctaw, and I asked where he got the warbonnet, and he said online. Nothing more really happened, except the owner did yell for April to return his headdress, and we eventually agreed to leave. I don’t actually know what became of the headdress. Security had gathered by that point and the police were in the back behind the bleachers.
The officers, identified as D. Reyes and Cotter, took Bighorse’s ID and ticket to the game and refused to return them, even as they asked that he, Negrette and their group leave the ballpark because of “unruly behavior.”
As Negrette told Brightman:
After the police had escorted us from the bleachers out back to the food stands they were yelling at me, “Give me the headdress! Give me the headdress!” and I didn’t want to give it back to them because the man had given it to me so the way I saw it it was mine now.
Well, an officer grabbed it from my hands and another officer grabbed it, too, because it was kind of long and they forcibly ripped it from me. I even had little feathers in my hands still after he pulled it and I was just so mad and crying and this officer kept saying, “You need to go, you need to go. If you’re not going to go willingly then we’ll make you go.”
The footage above shows two officers restraining Negrette by the arms and taking her out of the ballpark, while Bighorse, recording the incident on his phone, is pushed down by a officer he identifies as Cotter. Police subsequently tried to take his phone from him while allegedly claiming he was resisting. But the video shows that neither Bighorse nor Negrette are resisting the officers.
The two were subsequently “detained” out of the station, Bighorse wrote, due to the “private property owners [issuing] a citizens’ arrest.” Both were patted down, but Negrette told Brightman that, despite asking for a female officer to pat her down, that Cotter put his hands down the front and back of her pants.
“It seems like with Native issues, whenever there’s a rule that could oppress us, it’s over-enforced, and they have to kind of dial it back in a court,” Bighorse said in the interview. “But whenever there’s a rule that could protect us, it’s always not enforced or under-enforced.”
Brightman’s interview with Negrette and Bighorse can be heard in its entirety below.