Request An Inquest
Below are the remarks I gave at the 7th Annual Peace March yesterday at the Riverton City Park.
But first, updates.
A Garage Sale for “Justice for Andy” will be off the alley at 313 N. 6th St. E., Riverton, instead of a Rummage Sale at the United Methodist Church, this Saturday, July 31 at 8 am to 1 pm. Donations are still welcomed. More volunteers are needed. Proceeds will first be applied to the costs of the People’s Theater Inquest. Contact me for more information on how to donate and how to help.
The Riverton Peace Mission is being awarded a grant of $873 from the Wyoming Humanities Council (Think Wyoming) to offset about ½ of the costs for the People’s Theater Inquest including advertising. Here is the link for what the ad looks like. Thanks to Liz Hardwick for the design. (Someone upon seeing the ad suggested t-shirts with this on it. If you would like to donate to fund that, let me know.)
Two years ago, at the 5th Annual Peace March, Ron Howard and I announced the formation of the Riverton Peace Mission. From my work with the Wyoming Association of Churches and living in Riverton since 2013, I was thinking that more is needed than an annual march if meaningful change is to happen towards community harmony. When I approached Ron about the idea, he said he had been thinking the same. So, we incorporated as a nonprofit organization with the Wyoming Secretary of State in July 2019.
About a month later, I took a long vacation, driving through Canada to Alaska, went on a cruise, attended a Western States Center Conference in Spokane, Washington about the threats of white supremacy groups in the West, and went to Texas to visit relatives and to attend another event. I arrived back on September 21, 2019, about 1 pm. Shortly after, while unpacking, I got a text about a police shooting at Walmart.
Nothing has been the same since. I was thankful that we had the Riverton Peace Mission in place, at least on paper, but what were we to do? Micah Lott, aka Big Wind, organized a candlelight vigil for the family in front of City Hall. I attended and was one of two white people there. The other I learned was a relative of the Antelope family. Other white people I talked with said, “We need to wait until after the investigation to find out what happened.”
At that vigil, I was saddened by messages from the young Indigenous people who asked, “Will I be next?” That message, “Will I be next?” hit me to the core. I realized that the answer could very well be, “Yes, you could be.” It is not something that I as a white person need to worry about. Our mayor was quoted in the Riverton Ranger that he was offended by seeing that message, “Will I be next?” in chalk on the sidewalk in front of City Hall following the vigil. Yet, he has done absolutely nothing to help assure that another Native American will not be next. And if things do not change significantly in Riverton, more likely the violence that happened in 2015 at the Center of Hope and what happened in 2019 at Walmart, will happen again.
We do not know for sure what happened at Walmart on September 21, 2019, or what led up to it. There is no video of the incident, like there was of George Floyd. Witness reports are conflicting. One example is that a witness saw Andy Antelope pull a knife from his boot. From the photos, Andy had on white shoes, much like the ones I have on today where I knife could not have been placed.
The county coroner sought to hold an inquest that would have cost only a few hundred dollars. It was his belief that anytime there is a killing by law enforcement, an inquest should follow. Montana requires an inquest for police killings in statutes. Unfortunately, Wyoming does not. The county attorney used his power to block an inquest by our county coroner by refusing to enforce subpoenas for witnesses. I specifically asked the Riverton chief of police if he would cooperate with the inquest. He told me, no, that their attorneys had told them not to appear if subpoenaed. That is shocking that someone who has the position of enforcing the law will state that he will not obey the law himself.
An investigation by DCI is not a substitute for an inquest. Our pleas for cooperation for an inquest have to date been refused. But the Riverton Peace Mission is not finished with asking. An inquest can still be done. We now have a new county coroner. We will ask him to proceed with one and hope that the county attorney will be more cooperative with him than he was with the past county coroner.
In the meantime, we are hosting a mock inquest, the People’s Theater Inquest, at The Little Theater in the Student Center at Central Wyoming College on Friday, August 13, 7 pm. The public is invited at no cost. Masks will be required. The Wyoming Humanities Council (Think Wyoming) is co-sponsoring and funding a portion of the costs. The purpose of the event is to educate the public and to broaden the narrative from the current one. I suspect the current narrative by many is summarized by what Andy Antelope’s sister, Levina Bell, overheard at Walmart following the shooting of her brother when a woman asked another bystander what had happened, he said, “Just another drunk Indian got killed.”
The People’s Theater Inquest does not replace a real inquest, and we must continue to demand a real one. Please join us in that effort.
At the park, copies of educational fliers and a pamphlet prepared by Anderson Antelope Jr. prepared from prison with assistance from an inmate paralegal were handed out. If you would like copies, let me know.
You can support the Riverton Peace Mission at the website www.rivertonpeacemission.org or mail checks to PO Box 255, Riverton, WY 82501.