You Are Not Welcome Here – Said Mayor Jerry Nabours

Saturday morning, February 8th, dawned bright, sunny and warm. Flagstaff had “Dew Downtown” a skiing and snowboarding event sponsored primarily by Mountain Dew. (It is tempting to comment that a company putting out a poisonous soft drink of course will not think twice about putting on an poisonous event) During this event the city of Flagstaff chose to spend 300,000 gallons of drinking water to create a fake snow hill on a street downtown so they could have a competition.

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Last year Indigenous Navajo people and other environmentally conscious people had demonstrated this event with a prayer vigil and drums. At one point a drunk participant in the event assaulted two children and attempted to destroy their drums. The police and later the city council refused to charge this drunk – white – person for assault. Please note – all demonstrations done by the Navajo people are peaceful.

Prior to this years event plain clothes police officers showed up at the Info Center I stayed at, as well as a private home to intimidate my hosts against going out to demonstrate at the event.

Because the police showed up to try and intimidate my hosts they decided to do an demonstration this year as well, and it seemed to me to be a worthy cause so I planned to join the fray. I was also very worried about the obvious freedom of speech issues with apparently an “free speech zone” and the attempts at intimidation by the police I had already witnessed.

Dew Downtown is a rather baffling use of a very precious resource in the desert – water. Flagstaff currently experiences drought conditions with the city forecast to run out of water within 50 years – yet the city feels this is an appropriate (ab)use of water. Even more surprising – as apparently the city does not make a lot of money on this event.

About 15 of us gathered on a lawn with signs and banners before we walked towards the event. We made it to a cross section by San Francisco St and Birch, the event was going on right in front of us on San Francisco St. The cops of course were out in force, saw us coming, and it was easy to spot the tensions both in the cops body languages and in my crowd.

police cop

We stood on the corner for a while with our signs and then we decided to try and head up San Francisco St, and that is where we were stopped by the cops. The cops explained to us that we were not allowed with banners on San Francisco St due to the special use permit in effect. The explanation of the cops was that the public side walk was privately owned during the event and we would be trespassing with our signs. It was made clear to us that we would be arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct if we took our signs up there.

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While a couple of us were talking with the cops Klee walked up San Francisco St with his sign while the cops were distracted. I must admit it made me giggle. A couple of other people put down their signs and discreetly followed him to see what would happen. Apparently Klee had a conversation with mayor Jerry Nabours about the event. It wasn’t a friendly conversation, and at the end of it Jerry Nabours were heard uttering: “You are not welcome here” to Klee – Klee is Navajo so the discrimination is rather obvious and blatant. At this point Klee was escorted, under threat of arrest, by two burly and surly police officers back to us on the corner of Birch and San Francisco.

Shortly after I started to wonder how well they intended to enforce their ban of signs on San Francisco St. I had someone tape one of our banners on my back, and then I started to walk up San Francisco. I was low key, didn’t work to attract attention, but I walked the banner up and down San Francisco St several times – and the cops left me – a white woman – alone. Klee an Navajo male was threatened with arrest, and made “not welcome” in his own town by the mayor. The legal term I believe is “selective enforcement”.

I even had a conversation with an officer while wearing the sign. I had managed to lighten the mood between me and the officers previously with some kidding around. This officer laughed and warned me I was stretching the limits of what was acceptable. I laughed back and agreed with him. Then we also both agreed that if anyone could get away with it, it was me. Again, white person get’s away with it. Navajo person – threats of arrest.

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After the demonstration there was a pot luck dinner back at the info shop – a separate article all it’s own.

A few days later we learned that the special use permit did NOT include the sidewalks. The side walks were NOT designated private property for this event and our first amendment rights were clearly violated when the cops prevented us from going up that street with our signs.

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Then Klee and I headed to a council meeting. Klee wanted to document the civil rights violations and discrimination. I wanted to observe and learn more about what was happening in this town. What I saw horrified me . At one point three Latina’s with a translator spoke in turn. Apparently a trailer park is closing and many low income people are losing their homes. The Latinas were eloquent and emotional as the evictions  seemed to have already been decided.

As I listened to the Latinas and looked at the city council I saw several men smirk and smile, and at first I felt shock. I looked and listened a little longer and it started to dawn on me that this was a horribly biased city counsel. 10 counsel members – 7 were white men over 50. 3 were women, and only two of the ten council members were of color.

Those smirks and smiles while the Latinas were speaking made me furious, and I finally realized just how blatant, overt and disgusting the discrimination is in Flagstaff. The mayor actually managed to tell an Indigenous person “you are not welcome here”. If that wasn’t enough to wake me up to the discrimination seeing the giggles while women were in tears over losing their homes certainly did. I felt my heart pound faster as anger moved through me.

Not surprisingly the white male city council also seemed to think it was worth smirking over when Klee stood up to talk about the civil rights violations and the environmental destruction of “dew downtown”. These were not humans on the city council. They were arrogant and demeaning people who thought themselves so much above and beyond anyone with less money or of some other than white decent.

I finally had enough. I was beyond furious, and when given a chance I stood up to say something about what I had observed. I wasn’t surprised when the smirks and smiles turned to outright laughter as I called them on their obvious bigotry.

Ladies and Gentlemen, that is what I saw. Obvious, blatant and unapologetic discrimination run disgustingly rampant in Flagstaff.

Apparently environmentally irresponsible behavior, oppression of freedom of speech and overt discrimination is funny in the city of Flagstaff.

I hope you will join me in outrage and let the city of Flagstaff know – discrimination in the United States in 2014 is unacceptable.

Mayor Jerry Nabours, this message is directly to you. I doubt that you  have enough conscience to feel shame at such obvious discrimination. I promise to do my best to expose what I have seen in Flagstaff, and you can be certain that in the rest of the US blatant and overt discrimination is not acceptable behavior.


24 thoughts on “You Are Not Welcome Here – Said Mayor Jerry Nabours

  1. Go, Girl! We’re proud of you, and ashamed of Flagstaff! If it were only in Flagstaff, we’d be surprised, but that kind of bigotry is abundant throughout a lot of our country,. As you walk through the South, you’ll learn to either control your emotions, or . . . you’ll find yourself victim of amazing racial prejudice. It exists today. Only the Grace of God will ultimately affect the hearts of people who have been schooled in racism.

  2. Pingback: You Are Not Welcome Here – Said Mayor Jerry Nabours | La Voz de paul

  3. I hope you write about this across your journey. It does not surprise me in the least, I am glad you exposed me to this particular situation. This is the way our Congress is also, I hope and pray everyday for peace and to get racism out of our lives…..Having been in an interracial relationship since the early 1970’s and having a mixed daughter; unfortunately I have experienced this too many times.

  4. I too live in a somewhat small town. I however would and could call the news media to address this decimation issue. Im sure they tape all meetings. I would make A BIG Deal out of what they seemingly think is small.. You Pay their salary..MAKE them listen…they need to see the error in there blind eye. That is disgusting. Clearly, among “so called educated men/women” in a town hall meeting acting like fools..More of this assault to your OUR civil rights needs to be addressed. Make them accountable for their actions!

  5. The council needs to be solved by elections. Figure out how the structure of the thing works – is it a member per some sort of part of the city? Find out when each seat is up and work this thing!! Take the city back!!
    As to the event itself:
    When is that special use permit issued? Find out and take action before the permitting. Is it s separate committee meeting or do they just walk in and apply for it? Do they get it automatically or is there discussion? If there is discussion at a meeting, you need to provide input to in. And in mass.
    Can you get a table at the Earth Day event at the park? Have photos of the ice hill and facts about water usage. Have paper and pens so people can write a quick letter against the water waste. Photograph or photocopy them before you mail them to city hall. Get signatures on a petition. And if the committee meeting about the permit is after the Earth Day event,, ask people to go with you to that meeting. Have a sign up sheet and call and remind people. MAybe a quarter of those that sign up will be avialable to come along, but it’s better than just you! And hand deliver copies of the letters you mailed in case they got ‘lost’ when you mailed them.
    And if it goes thru again, keep the signs under your jackets until you get on site all the way. If you can go in advance and have businesses and offices put signs in their windows, do that. have them post them the morning of so they don’t get torn down. And get more people involved! Are there student environmental groups?

  6. Unfortunely this is common through out the southwest. They the “Indian” for the tourist package but a good Indian is a non seen one. If you have not read the book, “the Broken Circle,” an act discrimination in the city of Farmingtonthen you can see the blatant discrimination in Southwest Gov’t.

  7. Flagstaff has a major racist small town mentality to it. Flagstaff also has a strong local movement, with LOCAL meaning “white local families”. The White Locals in Flagstaff target non-whites overall (blacks, mexicans, asians, middle easterners, etc.), but especially Native Americans because Flagstaff is located right next to the largest reservation in the Nation. If Flagstaff was situated by Mexico or Detroit, the White Community in Flagstaff would be targeting Mexicans and Blacks. These White folks are racist all over our American Nation toward different non-white groups and nationalities…. This is the reality of American Society… and there is no excuse for White Racism….

    • Hey Eric, you are right, the US has an horrible history of racism, genocide and slavery. Inspite of that I think today the majority of Americans and white Americans knows that discrimination is wrong. There are obviously still pockets of it though.

  8. I am Navajo…. I support my ppl of the Navajo nation!!!! We were here first!!! San Fransisco peak is the Navajos sacret mountain……. they do discriminat in flagstaff Az!!!! So there for, I will never sped my money there again!!!! I am out raged!!!!!

  9. Manifestdestiny thats what they call it, & what’s even more sick is they believe it. That their God gave them the right to take this land by any means necessary. Its taught at college level. Its amazing how the Anglo belief falls strongly with the dollar bill. Always has pray pray pray we will win we shall overcome with humbleness & humility. There God is not our God. Trust our God needs prayer to accomplish the task at hand.

    • Hey Taz, you are right. There is a belief within Calvinism that states wealth, and land is a sign of Gods favor. Those with wealth can do whatever they want due to this. Disgusting!

  10. Interesting….Not long ago I parked my Truck in a parking lot in Downtown Flagstaff…There were about 8-10 other vehicles in the same lot…When I returned my Truck was towed & when I called I was told I had to pay $200 CASH or They wouldn’t release my Vehicle!…I noticed all the vehicles in the lot had AZ. plates..None of them got towed,.mine has New Mexico plates..Made me wonder if I was ”Singled out” ’cause of my ”Plates”?

    • Hey Thomas,
      Tow scams are common throughout the US. There has to be a legal reason for them to tow your car or truck, and they must be able to provide that reason. In order for a tow company to tow a car without the owners consent most legitimate businesses require the police to at least make a report – although not all do this.

      I don’t like they required cash payment – not easy to track. A legitimate company should have a number of ways to accept payment. Did you get a receipt? If yes, I would go to the police.

  11. Wow Malene!!! Not only is your journey amazing but your compassion toward people who need our voices to shed light on the injustices that are being put on them from many years ago to still in this day and age!! I’m absolutely disgusted with the “white” mans supremacy and I’m white!!! Although, I think I have a hint of Indian in me just not sure as I never met my dad!! I just relate to their spiritualities, and love of their land, etc.. They were here first we invaded their land!! If only people were not so ignorant and full of arrogance, and would just plain respect, love and relate our world could be such a better place with all cultures living together in peace! You go girl!! Every voice shared is another win for those that need to be heard but aren’t!

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