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Public outcry to prosecutors aids Tilsen in dropping charges

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 4:56 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Local Lakota activist Nick Tilsen says he’s reached an agreement with prosecutors to drop all of the charges against him related to a protest in Keystone during President Donald Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore.

Tilsen was facing a number of charges, including second-degree robbery and simple assault on law enforcement and faced the possibility of nearly 17 years in prison at most.

Tilsen says he believes the agreement is a good deal and says the charges should have never been brought against him in the first place. Instead of jail time, he’ll be in a diversion program and doing community service work as part of the agreement.

He says community support played a big part in the change.

“We had almost 20,000 signatures,” Tilsen told KOTA Territory News. “Hundreds of people sent letters and phone calls in. There’s a lot of pressure put in on the prosecutor’s office. These charges were very racially and politically motivated charges. To go from essentially 16 and a half years to community service, it tells you that the public outcry and the result of people organizing and the movement really contributed to these charges being dropped.”

Tilsen says it was never a criminal matter to begin with, but rather a political and racial matter.

He cast the deal as a victory for Indigenous organizers who have been calling for land that once belonged to tribes to be returned to tribal control.

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