The protest continues at the Grand Gateway Hotel
By Darren Thompson
RAPID CITY—Racist comments by a hotel owner have sparked regular protests at the Grand Gateway Hotel in Rapid City, South Dakota. A group of people have been protesting outside the hotel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the past 12 weeks.
On March 20, Connie Uhre, co-owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel, made derogatory comments about Native Americans on the Rapid City Mayor’s Facebook page, saying she was unable to distinguish “between a good Native and a bad Native.” . She also threatened to bar Native Americans from the property.
Led largely by the NDN Collective, an Indigenous-run nonprofit, protesters demonstrated outside the hotel come rain or shine.
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Sunny Red Bear, NDN Collective Director of Racial Equity, told Native News Online, “There is systemic racism happening all over this city. This responsibility here is only the beginning.
On March 23, NDN Collective filed a federal class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western Division of South Dakota. The lawsuit alleges the Grand Gateway Hotel intentionally discriminates against race after two Native Americans tried to rent rooms at the hotel but were refused.
“We want the Department of Justice to shut down the Grand Gateway Hotel,” Red Bear said.
“What are the things that create the conditions for racism to continue to exist in Rapid City?” she asked. “It doesn’t hold people accountable.”
Uhre was arrested on May 27 for three counts of common assault, after she sprayed cleaning agent in the faces of several protesters, including Red Bear. The incident was recorded and Uhre, 75, faces up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.
Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said in a statement that he condemned Uhre’s statements.
A 2015 study on racial disparities in Rapid City police showed that Native Americans are arrested more often than any other group in the city, and that police are more likely to use force against Native Americans than members of any other race.
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