On February 27, 2021, local trans Indigenous activist Bonn was followed and arrested by the Flagstaff Police Department for "aggravated assault." The arrest happened shortly after a protest in which over 100 people marched through the downtown Kinłani (so‐called Flagstaff) streets to express anger and outrage after local police assaulted a homeless Indigenous man. After the demonstration, participants walked with unsheltered relatives to organize rides when two police cruisers flanked to the left and two from the right, including an undercover vehicle. Officers jumped out of barely halted vehicles and swarmed Bonn, someone who has been targeted by the police before. A small group of participants ran toward the police in an attempt to disrupt an arrest.
Skuyá Mobile Unit, a mutual aid effort organized by Bonn, is a local network of young radicals who conduct nightly patrols, providing winter supplies like sleeping bags, hotel stays, hats, gloves, hot meals, and handwarmers to unsheltered relatives during the cold months. Mutual aid efforts like SMU have been necessary as the City of Flagstaff has done nothing to protect our community from economic suffering, police violence, or the pandemic. The arrest of Bonn attempts to stop mutual aid networks benefitting the Indigenous community and puts pressure on activists to not step out of line.
This tactic of targeting organizers on their way home, when they are out of the eye of the public, is neither isolated nor coincidental. It is a common tactic used by FPD and a tool that police and the FBI have used nationally to undermine liberation movements throughout history, from the Black Panther Party to the American Indian Movement to DREAMERS. Its function is to strike fear and create isolation in those targeted, who become vulnerable without a hundred‐person crowd of comrades. It also allows Flagstaff PD to maintain its "hands‐off" public image regarding policing protests and direct action. The reality is that police treat post‐action like a witch hunt, utilizing undercover officers and hyper‐surveillance in the form of frequent stalking and intimidation of Indigenous organizers daily.
After a summer of uprising and outrage against police violence and murder throughout the occupied lands of North America, many in Kinłani would like to stop discussing white supremacy and assume that our little mountain town is different from Minneapolis or Portland. And in a way, they are correct, but not in the way they think. Local police are proportionally more violent than their national counterparts. Police homicides accounted for 36.4% of all homicides in Kinłani from 2015 to 2019, while police officers are shooting and killing our community members at a rate over six times the national average.
This violence is not uniform, though, and the vast majority of it is directed at the Indigenous community, who are already experiencing the ongoing violence of colonialism. For example, from January 1, 2015, to July 31, 2020, 60% of FPD arrests in “Flagstaff” targeted Indigenous Peoples with Indigenous men alone constituting nearly half (46.4%) of all arrests. The Indigenous community also experiences the systemic violence of economic insecurity and displacement. In this city, half of the unsheltered people in "Flagstaff" are Indigenous while only 7.7% of the city's population is Indigenous. Due to racist policing practices houseless Indigenous people are targeted in 88% of arrests due to the criminalization of being unsheltered. As a result, Flagstaff has been named one of the 10 meanest cities in the so‐called U.S. toward unsheltered people.
With all this in mind, it is no surprise that the Indigenous community and their accomplices have organized mutual aid networks and community defense.
- Shepherd (Tsos) Tsosie
- Ms Lindsey C Fowler
- Brian Larson
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