Tilsen hopes to shed light on racial inequality in justice system

Published: Mar. 24, 2021 at 1:01 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Charges against local Native American activist Nick Tilsen are being dropped when he completes a diversion program.

Tilsen was facing second-degree robbery and simple assault on law enforcement - stemming from a protest near Keystone that took place during President Donald Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore.

Tilsen was accused of taking a riot shield from an officer, in addition to violating the rules agreed upon by both the protestors and the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department.

He originally faced the possibility of nearly 17 years in prison.

Instead, he will complete community service work.

Tilsen, the NDN Collective President and CEO, says he believes the protest was peaceful and that protesters were expressing their First Amendment rights.

Tilsen is hoping this will open a deeper conversation about racial inequality within the justice system.

“When native people organize and speak up - we’re considered like a threat and a threat to this community,” Tilsen said. “When the reality is we’re trying to move things forward for this community.. and we’re an essential part of this community as a whole.”

Tilsen says he thinks it’s “pretty crazy” that he would’ve gone to jail for practicing his right to protest.

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