Eight Alaskan women and men were arrested Tuesday in Washington DC outside of the office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).
The protestors were there to voice their concerns regarding the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whose controversial nomination by President Trump has come under continuous scrutiny regarding Kavanaugh’s lack of knowledge regarding Native issues and the alleged sexual assault of Professor Christine Blasey Ford.
In the video a women who did not identify herself, described the incident as follows:
“The indigenous protestors are now getting arrested outside of Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska’s office simply for trying to visit their representative to the senate and speak about their concerns. When will our representatives listen to the people they claim to represent?” she asks in the video. “There are eight Indigenous americans from Alaska being arrested for simply trying to speak to their representative in the Senate, Dan Sullivan.”
As the people are being arrested, voices in the crowd began to shout ‘Trust Indigenous people.”
Among the other Alaskans arrested outside Sullivan’s office was the 75-year-old well-known Alaska activist Fred John of Delta Junction. He wore a sweatshirt printed with a photo of his mother.
“My mom is Katie John,” he said to Alaska Public radio “She fought for our way of life for over 30 years and she came out pretty good, and we want to keep it that way.” Fred John told APR that he worries Kavanaugh could undermine the Supreme Court’s Katie John decision that guarantees important subsistence rights. John also said he was “happy to get cuffed for a cause and said this wasn’t his first arrest for political protesting.”
“In 1967, I was in L.A. and I marched with the black people, and we got beat up,” John said. But, he added, this time the police were very gentle and polite.
In response to a public outcry against the arrests, Dan Sullivan released the following statement on Tuesday:
“There has been a number of questions raised today regarding a protest in and directly outside of my Washington, D.C. office in opposition to Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Given the attention this has received, I believe it warrants a response.
“First, I try to meet with each and every Alaskan visiting Washington, D.C. In recent weeks I’ve met with numerous individuals, groups and organizations expressing their support for and opposition against the Kavanaugh nomination, including many from our Alaska Native community – a group I deeply respect. This group was no different. They had requested a meeting with me earlier in the week and we offered them a 3 pm meeting today. They declined to participate. Today, during their protest, they demanded to meet with me immediately. Unfortunately I was participating in a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing at the time.
“Second, these protesters were not turned away from my office. It is my personal policy, and that of my staff, to show respect for all my Alaskan constituents, whether in my office, town halls, or meetings throughout the state. This particular group stayed in my office for approximately 15 minutes, where they were listened to in a respectful manner, and left on their own accord. Due to requirements of the Architect of the Capitol, which restricts the number of people allowed in my front office, the group was only asked to limit the number of individuals inside my office to 11 people while others waited outside.
“Third, my office did not notify the U.S. Capitol Police. No protesters were arrested inside my Senate office, nor were any protesters arrested at the request of myself or any member of my staff. Any arrests made today, including those made in the hallways or public passageways of the Senate Hart Office Buildings, were at the discretion of the U.S. Capitol Police – charged with protecting the U.S. Congress; its legislative processes, employees, visitors, and facilities from crime and disruption. It is our understanding that these individuals were offered multiple opportunities by the U.S. Capitol Police to cease what has been described as "unlawful demonstration activities,” including obstructing public passageways and business activities. Some chose to do so, while others chose to be arrested.
“I believe all Alaskans deserve to be heard in a respectful manner. Since the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh, I’ve regularly met with Alaskans on these important issues, including a number of groups and individuals from our Alaska Native community. As I stated before, if I believed or saw evidence that Judge Kavanaugh’s views were somehow opposed or hostile to Alaska Natives — a very important population of our state that includes my wife, daughters, and mother-in-law — I would not support his confirmation.
“Lastly, on recent claims made against Judge Kavanaugh. I would like to reiterate that allegations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. Both Professor Ford and Judge Kavanaugh deserve the right to be heard on this matter. I commend Chairman Grassley on committing to as much and will be following Thursday’s Committee hearing closely.”
The incident occurred on the heels of the annual meeting of Bering Sea Elders Group which convened in Anchorage Alaska last week, September 19-20. During the annual meeting, the group passed four resolutions, including a resolution opposing confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
See the full press announcement here. Bering Sea Elders Group opposes Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh
The Bering Sea Elders Group’s resolution opposing Kavanaugh stated the following:
“The Bering Sea Elders Group opposes the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh because he has demonstrated he does not understand the inherent status, rights, and roles of federally recognized Tribes and puts at risk the 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska. Kavanaugh’s overly narrow and legally incorrect views of the relationship between federal and tribal governments will jeopardize the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the Violence Against Women Act, and other laws related to tribal self-determination.”
“Violence against our Native women and children in Alaska is not part of our culture, but is unfortunately an epidemic in Alaska. A person’s actions, beliefs, and ways of being show you who they are, and it is our way to know a person, their actions, their beliefs, and their way of being before elevating them to an important position in the community. Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual assault and attempted rape and this should be fully investigated. In addition, all the hundreds of thousands of pages of information about his previous work that are currently missing from the public record should be vetted.”
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling