On Thursday, March 26, 2009, Hennepin County law-enforcement officers, with the permission of the Fish and Wildlife Service made use of Building 1 and adjacent area of the former Bureau of Mines site for a training operation involving fifty camouflaged officers, numerous vehicles, and plenty of weaponry. The event was apparently unknown and unanticipated by officials of the National Park Service-Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (MNRRA), three of whom went to the site to look at some things “relative to planning for site restoration,” the topic of the public comment period (on the restoration of the property) that had ended just the night before. According to Steven P. Johnson of MNRRA, “they encountered a large number of law enforcement vehicles and officers, and were denied access. The law enforcement folks were conducting training exercises of some sort.”
Learning of this, Johnson called Bob Hansen of the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is currently managing the property. Hansen had given the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office permission to use Building 1 and the area around it, though, according to Johnson, Hansen had “expected the rest of the site would be available to the public.” Johnson informed him that this was not the case. “He was going to look into if further in the afternoon.” (It should be noted that the Sheriff’s office provides security for the property, but has done little to prevent extensive spray painting by taggers to the BOM buildings and the historic marker at the spring.)
Later in the morning Debbra Myers, Jeanne Hollingsworth, Susu Jeffrey and other Coldwater Spring supporters received word of the law enforcement actions and decided to go to the spring. Myers, Hollingsworth, and Jeffrey all went to the spring, arriving shortly after 1 PM and staying until 4 PM. During the afternoon they spoke on the phone with Bob Hansen who stated that the property was public property and had to be available to everyone. The account of Debbra Myers about what happened is shown below.
Although the events were a surprise to MNRRA officials, they raise question about the commitment of the Department of Interior to protecting the cultural and historic character of the Coldwater Spring property in the future, and their longterm sensitivity to the concerns of Dakota people. It should be remembered that several proposals put forward during initial phases of the current environmental process were for a Minneapolis Police Department facility and a law-enforcement training facility on this site. It was assumed that these proposals had fallen by the wayside. Is what happened on March 26 a sign of or preparation for things to come, a show of force, or is it intended as a provocation? One way or another it is hoped that no one will be provoked to do anything in response. These events make government agencies look bad enough. They don’t need any competition.
Account of Debbra Myers about what happened at the Coldwater/Bureau of Mines property on March 26, 2009
On the morning of March 26th I was informed that the Sheriff Dept of Hennepin County and several other police divisions were gathering at Coldwater Spring. I immediately called Bruce White, Jimmy Anderson, and several others and headed for the Spring. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service’s 30 day public comment period had ended the night before at midnight. I was wondering if all this was connected.
As we approached the entrance I was not prepared for what lay ahead. There was a large motor home that was a command post complete with a lot of communication equipment on top. A large tent set up on the circular paved area right before the gates. Numerous local suburban police cars as well, Plymouth, Crystal, Golden Valley squads among others. There were around 50 camouflaged clothed males in the immediate area.
The whole scene was surreal, and totally inappropriate; this is sacred land. It felt like a military camp. I started to visibly shake and had a large knot in my stomach. As we approached the entrance at a slow speed, I was not willing to be denied access, this was not an option. We were able to drive into the Spring without resistance.
We drove down to the Spring to gather our thoughts. The Spring was clear and noticeably without the ducks. I had been coming down all winter the ducks were always gathered on the water. Was this a sign of the hostile actions about to take place. We drove back out the gates to wait for others that were coming. I was not comfortable in the area of the police gathering and hesitated to stay out side of the gates.
As we approached the entrance again, a SUV from the Sheriff’s Department pulled up to our car, his vehicle was inches from my window. He was agitated that we were there, it was obvious. He barked, where we thought we were going? We replied that we were going to the Spring. He told us to go! I was not moving since there was a camouflaged office standing in front of my car. The officer yelled at me to go again, and said “he will move.” The officer in front of my car was hyper and couldn’t wait to aggressively ask,”where do you think you are going?” Again we replied the Springs. We were then told that the Sheriff’s Department were going to be using building 1 for training and the area would have a lot of people running around, so we should not be worried. We informed the officer that no guns should be involved and they really should not be there, this was inappropriate use of the land. We were informed that there would be no live ammunition in the guns. The officer was told any guns on the land were inappropriate and we were terribly upset at the situation.
Our cars were backed in at the top of the drive near the Spring. The training did begin and the officers staged up 20 – 30 feet from the cars. At this point there were 3 women in our group. With guns drawn and some devices that were used to launch “something” from their shoulders, was this thing a rocket launcher? Their games began. I couldn’t believe it was all taking place; it was an appalling and shocking display which played out for 4 hours.
Bob Hansen of the Fish and Wild life Services called on the cell and informed us he had given permission for the Hennepin County Sheriff Dept to use the Building 1. He said it was a property of the Department of Interior, and the land was to be used by all people. He informed us that the Sheriff’s Dept was the agency that was providing security for the Spring, and it was a trade off. Sacred land being used for war maneuvers? The Security Squads have been driving on the grassy areas of the Spring, this has caused erosion and is unacceptable.
This appears to be, as we have seen time and time again, the aggressive and shameless use of power to intimidate the people who are protesting and speaking out on the use and abuse of a sacred area. This is and always will be Dakota land and the latest cowboy show is totally vile. Stop the abuse of this area and do the right thing, give back the land to the Dakota.