Tribal police raid headquarters, arrest protesters demanding federal audit

Saturday, January 3rd 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

McLOUD, Okla. (AP) _ Kickapoo tribal police raided the tribe's headquarters and arrested three women who had barricaded themselves in the building demanding changes in leadership and a federal audit of the tribe's finances.

The women, the only ones remaining in the building of a group of 10 who had been staging the demonstration since Dec. 16, were jailed on misdemeanor complaints of trespassing and posted $100 bail later that day.

One of the women, Glenda Deer said they were caught off-guard about 12:45 a.m. Friday when a masked tactical team dressed in black broke a window and broke through a door.

Deer said she thought the men had been hired to assault them.

``I was really disappointed when I realized it was our own tribal police,'' she said. ``They came in like gung-ho Rambos -- like you'd see in the movies.''

Tribal Police Chief Anthony Wheeler said two of the seven officers were wearing black hoods to shield their faces from the glass fragments and looked ``pretty scary.'' No firearms were brandished, and no one was injured, he said.

Deer said the raid was overly aggressive.

``We told them this was a peaceful protest,'' she said. ``It was totally unnecessary. They could have knocked on the door, and we would have let them in.''

Deer, Auchee Wahpepah and Valentina Jimenez were among the group of women who took over the tribal headquarters after the tribe's election board said a recall election aimed at ousting chairman Tony Salazar was invalid.

Salazar lost the Dec. 10 election 168 to 150, but remained in office until Dec. 24 when a tribal judge overturned the election board's decision.

The women had refused to leave the building until Salazar was removed from office and federal officials agreed to audit the tribe's finances.

Representatives of the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs did not return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment Saturday.

Wheeler said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Bureau of Indian Affairs were notified after tribal police took the women into custody.

The women had collected more than 80 signatures requesting a recall election to oust the business committee's vice chairman, Patrick Suke.

Suke took over as chairman when Salazar was removed from office.

``This is only the beginning. We're not going to stop until people are held responsible for what is going on with this tribe's finances,'' Deer said.

No one will be allowed inside the building until federal officials decide whether they want to search it for evidence to support the protesters' claims.

The tribe has about 2,600 members in Oklahoma, plus related groups in Texas and Mexico.