April Negrette and Kimball Bighorse are filing tort claims today against the City and County of San Francisco. The claims are the first step in suing the City and County for police brutality that occurred when the Giants called in SFPD to eject Negrette and Bighorse from its June 23, 2014, “Native American Heritage Night” event and game. SFPD officers threw Ms. Negrette to the ground by her hair, violently twisted her arms and kept her in an excruciating pain compliance hold for an extended period of time. When Mr. Bighorse video-recorded this with his smart phone, SFPD officers also subjected him to excessive force and an invasive search, accused both of being drunk (neither had had any alcohol), and detained them until the end of the game.
View tort claim (pdf).
Ms. Negrette and Mr. Bighorse, who did not know each other before that night, had peacefully confronted a group of inebriated men who were inappropriately and disrespectfully wearing a plastic counterfeit Native American-themed headdress, explaining that what they were doing was offensive and wrong. The group gave the offending headdress to Ms. Negrette. The Giants then ordered the San Francisco Police to eject Negrette, who is Shoshone and Paiute, and Bighorse, who is Cayuga, Navajo, and Seneca – but not the drunken men, most of whom were white – from the stadium. The police then returned the headdress to the group, who returned to wearing the imitation headdress and enjoying the rest of the game undisturbed. The Giants’ and SFPD’s actions violated Negrette and Bighorse’s constitutional rights and the UN General Assembly’s "Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples" (DRIP) adopted overwhelmingly on September 13, 2007 (see www.undesadspd.org.)
“I am tired of being walked all over,” April Negrette explained. “Nobody would call me a sq*aw to my face, but they will make fun of our culture – the cultures that were outlawed, forcibly removed from us, beaten out of us in boarding schools, that people were murdered for simply because we were different - and play dress up in it now because all of a sudden it’s cool to be a Native? No way. We live, breathe and die this everyday. We walk around with the influences of those things ingrained in us to this day.”
In addition to filing a claim against San Francisco, Negrette, Bighorse and the National Lawyers Guild have demanded an apology from the Giants and that the Giants expressly prohibit headdresses and other appropriations of Native American spirituality and culture at their games, provide cultural sensitivity training to their security staff, not display racist team names and imagery (such as the Cleveland Indians or Atlanta Braves), and issue a public call to all Bay Area professional and college sports teams and all Major League Baseball teams to adopt similar policies.
“The Giants’ new code of fan conduct is frustratingly vague and can only be enforced capriciously and arbitrarily,” said Kimball Bighorse. “Worse, it fails to acknowledge – let alone address – the true problem: institutionalized racism against Native Americans in sports. I find it hard to believe that such a proud and storied franchise that represents such a culturally rich and globally-admired city could perpetuate racism against this country’s most systematically oppressed minority.”
Anthony Gonzales, director of the American Indian Movement-West (AIM-WEST) (www.aimwest.info), stated, “Kimball Bighorse and April Negrette were assaulted, denied their rights, humiliated, and ejected from the ball game, which I might add, was in honor to the heritage and contributions of the American Indian! AIM-WEST is calling on the SF Giants, as well as the the SF 49ers, to abide by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which mandates that Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture.”
Ms. Negrette added, “The fact that the police intervened was like rubbing salt in a wound. You have these people mocking our history, culture and existence, and then the people that are supposed to keep the peace and protect you beat us up and throw us out to make an example of us for having the audacity to speak up. It was history repeating itself in its 21st century version of assimilation.”
Rachel Lederman, Negrette and Bighorse’s attorney and the president of the Bay Area chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, said, “We are considering all legal options both as to SFPD and the Giants, to vindicate our clients’ rights under the UN Declaration and the US Constitution and obtain justice.”