Two Native Americans removed from San Francisco’s AT&T Park during a Native American Heritage Night at a Giants game in June are filing a claim of police brutality against The City and are urging the Giants to practice cultural sensitivity.
Kimball Bighorse, 35, of San Bruno, who is of Seneca, Cayuga, and Navajo descent, stood outside AT&T Park this morning recounting the incident that occurred inside the ballpark on June 23 that led to police detaining him and a fellow Giants fan who he met that night, April Negrette.
Bighorse said he and Negrette peacefully confronted a man wearing a backwards, plastic Native American-themed headdress. Bighorse described the headdress as “counterfeit” and said it was being worn in an “offensive” manner on a night that was meant to celebrate Native American heritage.
They expressed to the man that what he was doing was an insult and a highly offensive instance of cultural appropriation. In a video about the incident posted on the YouTube channel WeCopwatch, Negrette says the man eventually gave the pair the headdress when he saw how upset it was making her.
As the pair was heading back to their seats, San Francisco police officers stopped them, Bighorse said.
San Francisco police officers ejected them from the ballpark, allegedly throwing Negrette to the floor by her hair, violently twisting her arms behind her back and keeping her in a painful compliance hold for an extended period of time, Bighorse said.
Bighorse, a software engineer who works at a San Francisco startup, said he decided to capture video footage of the police officers’ conduct on his phone. He captured much of the incident on his phone before he too was removed from the stadium and handcuffed.
Negrette said in the YouTube video that police were violent and didn’t readily supply a female officer to search her despite her request. She said she was “harassed and abused.”
Bighorse said he hopes filing the tort claim will remind San Francisco police to think twice before stopping people from expressing themselves and will hold police accountable for their actions.
A letter delivered this week to the Giants’ director of special ticketing, Faham Zakariaei, from the pair’s attorney, Rachel Lederman, on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild urged the Giants to prevent a recurrence of “racist and culturally insensitive” actions.
Lederman urged the Giants to acknowledge and apologize for the incident and take measures to prevent it from happening again.
She said the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was created to protect Native Americans from such abuse, but the laws must be enforced to better “promote respect for all peoples.”
Lederman’s letter asks the Giants not to allow appropriations of Native American culture, not to display what they say are racist team names or imagery and publicly encourage Bay Area sports teams and Major League Baseball teams to adopt similar policies.
She also urged the Giants to provide cultural sensitivity training to their staff. The Giants have placed a message on a section of their team website saying:
“Any fan wearing culturally insensitive attire, using obscene or abusive language, engaging in antisocial conduct offensive to those around them or displaying any other offensive behavior is subject to removal from the ballpark.”
The message says:
“If you observe a fan acting in this manner, please contact Giants security by texting the word ‘FOUL’ to 69050, followed by your message. Please do not take the matter into your own hands.”
Tony Gonzales, director of American Indian Movement West and a liaison to the United Nations, supports the pair’s claim, saying that the incident “goes to the heart of racism in America.”
Gonzales recommends that the Giants’ staff meet with representatives of San Francisco and Bay Area Native American groups to better understand how certain imagery is harmful to Native Americans and how they can work with Native American representatives to make changes.
Both Gonzales and Bighorse said today that they are longtime Giants fans and said they would like to see the Giants act in an exemplary manner.