Chesie's Journal: Wondering Why

This week I received this inquiry: “There have been 5 officer involved shootings in Fremont County in the last 3 years. Wondering why RPM is only focused on Anderson Antelope?” I am glad this concern is raised because we can address what is on people’s minds. Also, we can be held accountable for Riverton Peace Mission’s positions.

The police killing of Anderson Antelope on September 21, 2019 rocked this community dominating Riverton news in much the same way that the police killing did nationally of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Tribal residents were shocked and angered that one of them who was at Walmart on a Saturday afternoon not bothering anyone, as witnesses observed, was being arrested and that an officer further escalated harm by refusing to take Antelope to the hospital as requested, tossing trash onto the food he was eating, and placing a tight painful wrist-hold on him.

Officer James Donahue did not have to kill Antelope. If Donohue had no viable choice, then why was there a cover-up? Why was there no grand jury investigation and the County Coroner’s request for a public inquest thwarted? Why did Kim Harjo, a Northern Arapaho Business Council member, recently ask the Wyoming Select Committee on Tribal Relations for answers?

These circumstances were not the case in the other police shootings in Fremont County. But also, the other police killings were not seen as acts of racism. Many of us believe that had Antelope been a white person instead of Native American who was intoxicated, disabled and mentally ill, he would not have been killed, but treated respectfully.

This is bigger than Anderson Antelope being killed. Our board wants changes in policing practices so that what happened to him never happens again. That’s why the candlelight vigil this Wednesday outside of City Hall is being called “Never Again in Riverton.” That is why our petition asks that the City of Riverton address racism. The story of Anderson Antelope represents an intersection of a tragedy we need to acknowledge and to set right. It differs from the other police killings.

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

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