Prior to the arrival of President Trump at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, a group of protesters set up a blockade of white vans and removed and/or slashed the tires of the vehicles in order to make them difficult to take away. The protesters gather approximately three hours ahead of the scheduled festivities.
15 people were arrested after blocking Highway 16A, or Iron Mountain Road, before President Trump was set to make his way from Rapid City to Keystone and then on the highway to Mount Rushmore.
The Rapid City Journal reported that law enforcement in riot gear as well as members of the National Guard had declared an unlawful assembly. Law enforcement was later seen putting on gas masks and launching smoke bombs into the crowd to try to disperse the protesters.
Right Side Broadcasting Network (RSBN) was on scene for the entire standoff between the protesters and law enforcement. At approximately 1 hour 43 minutes into their broadcast, they started filming the standoff. A loud bang is heard when the protesters were blowing out the tires on the vans. The National Guard and the Sheriff’s Department in riot gear surrounded the area around the protesters and they moved forward after the group ignored a police-imposed deadline to leave. At 6:30 p.m., law enforcement gave remaining protesters 30 minutes to disperse before they would arrest anyone left in the road. The troops pushed back the protesters so they could access the vans, and flatbed tow trucks were brought in, which removed the vans quickly. Shortly after 7 p.m., the National Guard held back onlookers and pressed in on protesters while the sheriff’s department moved in to arrest the 15 people who stayed.
Several of those arrested prayed before being detained by law enforcement. Protesters cited that the Black Hills are sacred to Native Americans. Freddie Longworth, a member of the Oglala Lakota tribe and part of the protest, said “the problem is bigger than the current president“.
According to reporter Kerry Smith with RSBN, there were Black Lives Matter and other groups present at the protest. One Native American protester who spoke to Kerry Smith pointed out that he believes that some of the other protesters were protesting for different reasons and may have escalated the situation for their own purposes. The Native American protester went on to say that some of the people that were arrested who made contact with the National Guard were not native and not part of their protest and cause. The Native American protesters were peacefully protesting and not agitating, which was also the consensus of the eyewitnesses who were there. In one incident an agitator who was not part of the Native American protest hurled insults and physically attacked a man who was waiting to go to the festivities. She was arrested and the Trump supporter was released.
The entire situation was contained in about 3 hours and attendees and the President were able to enjoy the evening’s festivities where President Trump gave an inspiring speech about our Founding Fathers and our freedom, which was followed by a spectacular firework display. There had not been fireworks at the monument since 2009, and they looked majestic behind the images of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.