Dennis Banks addresses the trial attendees in July 2015
September 3, 2015
RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA — “The trial was nothing but a sham,” stated Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, speaking to Native News Online about the trial and acquittal of Trace O’Connell, 41, the man accused of spraying 57 American Indian students from Allen, South Dakotathe Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
The students from the American Horse School in Allen attended a Rapid City Rush hockey game on January 24, 2015 as an reward for scholastic achievements.
O’Connell attended the game with several residents from Philip, South Dakota. The group got the game early and had made some stops on their way to Rapid City, stopping for alcoholic drinks along the way.
Crowd leaving trial of Trace O’Connell in July 2015
On Tuesday O’Connell was acquited of the misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge. The decision was hand down by Magistrate Judge Eric Strawn, who presided over the non-jury trial.
Banks, who is well acquainted with Rapid City since the early 1970s as the American Indian Movement began to emerge, says the city has been and continues to be a very racist city.
“I never thought they would find O’Connell guilty. Justice does not happen for American Indians in Rapid City,” said Banks.
Banks attended two days of the trial in late July, along with up to 250 other American Indians who attended the trial in support of the 57 young students.
“The trial was almost humorous at some points. They attorney would ask the students who testified ‘how do you know it was beer?’ The students said they know what beer smells like. That is why I say the trial was nothing but a sham.”
Banks says that maybe a new generation of Rapid City may give up their racist ways.
“We actually have had some young non-Indians there show us support. But, truthfully, I don’t think the older generation will ever treat American Indians fairly. It has been a highly racist city ever since I remember.”
Many American Indians feel more serious charges should have been brought against O’Connell, including drunk and disorderly and hate crimes against the American Indian students.