Protesters demonstrating against President Donald Trump’s arrival in the Black Hills for the Mount Rushmore fireworks display were met with resistance from law enforcement, pepper sprayed and arrested after they blocked a highway to the monument with vans for nearly three hours Friday.
A handful of protesters were arrested after blocking Highway 16A, or Iron Mountain Road, before President Trump was set to make his way from Rapid City to Keystone and then on the highway to Mount Rushmore. Several of those arrested knelt and prayed before being detained by law enforcement.
Live updates and video:President Trump visits South Dakota for the Mount Rushmore Fireworks Celebration
Protesters cited that the Black Hills are sacred to Native Americans and that Trump’s administration opposes interests of Native Americans and other minority groups.
“Today has been a proud day to be Lakota,” said Nick Tilsen of the NDN Collective. “We shut down Mount Rushmore. We put this place in lockdown for three hours and we did it in a good way. We got this power from our ancestors.”
A majority of protesters dispersed from the scene after the South Dakota National Guard arrived on scene about an hour after protesters blocked the road and law enforcement declared it as an “unlawful assembly” over a megaphone.
While several law enforcement agencies responded wearing riot gear, tear gas masks and use of force weapons, they only shot close range smoke shells at protesters’ feet and pepper spray into some protesters’ eyes.
The South Dakota American Civil Liberties Union was on scene, documenting “incidents of police misconduct” and “violations of constitutional rights” at the protest, according to a social media post by the organization.
Trump supporters were also on the scene, but authorities were keeping them away from protesters.
Trump arrived in the Black Hills around 6:45 p.m. MT Friday. The program began at 4 p.m. MT Friday and the fireworks are expected to begin at about 9:30-9:45 p.m. MT Friday.