breaking: mistrial declared for american indian movement co-founder clyde bellecourt

by Tim Phillips

Clyde Bellecourt co-founded the American Indian Movement (AIM) on July 28, 1968. Chapters of AIM subsequently formed around the U.S. As Steve Hendricks wrote in The Unquiet Grave,

[AIM] got its start policing the Minneapolis police… They told Indians who were being arrested of their rights, and they photographed police at work. … AIM’s work expanded into quieter services, like finding decent housing and jobs for urban Indians, who had long had neither, and founding “survival schools” for Indian children who had left or been rejected by white schools.

On December 24, 2012, Bellecourt attended an unpermitted ceremony at an indoor urban park in Minneapolis in support of Attawapiskat First Nation Chief Theresa Spence, who had begun a fast roughly two weeks earlier, and Idle No More, a grassroots movement to draw attention to the plight of First Nations people in Canada. The ceremony involved 40 to 50 people who danced, beat drums, or sang healing songs. Bellecourt distributed flyers for an annual New Year’s Eve sobriety pow-wow.

A police officer asked Bellecourt to help disperse the participants, but Bellecourt declined. Bellecourt then went upstairs for coffee. When he returned, the ceremony was over.

Bellecourt sat on a bench, but a security guard told him to leave. Bellecourt said he would leave once he finished his coffee. Police subsequently took him into custody, making him the first and only person from the ceremony to be arrested.

Bellecourt’s trespassing case went to trial last week. On Thursday and Friday he testified in his own defense. Today the judge declared a mistrial, because the jury couldn’t reach a verdict after deliberating for almost nine and a half hours over three days. (The final vote was apparently five to one in favor of acquittal.) The prosecutor, however, allegedly intends to retry the case.