Mt. Rushmore Protest Leader Hit with Plethora of Charges After Blocking Highway


One of the leaders of the protest that shut down the highway to Mount Rushmore last Friday prior to President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July celebration at the monument is facing five criminal charges.

On Monday, Nick Tilsen was charged with second-degree robbery and simple assault for allegedly stealing a shield and assaulting a law enforcement officer, the Rapid City Journal reported.

The Porcupine resident and member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe is also charged with three misdemeanors for impeding a highway, unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct.

If he is convicted, Tilsen faces up to 12 years in prison — 10 years for the robbery charge and two years for the simple assault.

The charges at the Pennington County Courthouse in Rapid City, South Dakota, come days after 150 demonstrators used vans and their bodies to shut down the road and a checkpoint to Mount Rushmore to protest the president’s visit to the monument.

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“The biggest message that we have been trying to send this entire time is that Mount Rushmore is a symbol of white supremacy and racial injustice in this country and that the four faces carved on that mountain are the four faces of colonizers who have committed genocide on Indigenous people,” Tilsen told the Rapid City Journal on July 3.

“To have their faces carved on our sacred lands is why it’s an extreme injustice.”

He said that his group took action “because white supremacy will not be dismantled if we merely bow down.”

Tilsen was one of 15 people who were purposely arrested in order to bring attention to their cause.

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He was released on Monday afternoon after posting a $2,000 bond.

His lawyer and family say that Tilsen was targeted because “he’s been identified as someone who had a leadership role.”

“There’s a long history of persecuting leadership and trying to separate leadership away from the groups they work with,” his father, Mark, said.

Tilsen wrote an NBC News Op-Ed published on July 3 criticizing the president’s visit to the area.

“Make no mistake, this divisive visit was an attack on Indigenous people,” he wrote.

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He added that the Black Hills are “the site of death, violence and war.”

“They are home to Mount Rushmore — a monument to white colonizers carved by a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer into land stolen from us by the U.S. government in 1877,” Tilsen wrote.

“Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore, timed to America’s celebration of the Fourth of July, was almost a natural sequel to his rally in Tulsa — originally coinciding with Juneteenth. He is taking his campaign from the site of one of the United States’ most horrific acts of racism to another place with long histories of oppression and state-sanctioned violence.”

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Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. A University of Oregon graduate, Erin has conducted research in data journalism and contributed to various publications as a writer and editor.
Erin Coates was an editor for The Western Journal for over two years before becoming a news writer. She grew up in San Diego, California, proceeding to attend the University of Oregon and graduate with honors holding a degree in journalism. During her time in Oregon, Erin was an associate editor for Ethos Magazine and a freelance writer for Eugene Magazine. She has conducted research in data journalism, which has been published in the book “Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future.” Erin is an avid runner with a heart for encouraging young girls and has served as a coach for the organization Girls on the Run. As a writer and editor, Erin strives to promote social dialogue and tell the story of those around her.
Tucson, Arizona
Graduated with Honors
Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, University of Oregon
Books Written
Contributor for Data Journalism: Past, Present and Future
Prescott, Arizona
Languages Spoken
English, French
Topics of Expertise
Politics, Health, Entertainment, Faith