All Charges Tossed against Leader of Indigenous-Led Advocacy Group Involved in Trump Protest


By The Vanguard Staff

SIOUX FALLS SD – All charges were dismissed here last week against the leader of an Indigenous-led advocacy organization who was arrested at a protest during then-President Donald Trump’s trip to Mount Rushmore.

NDN Collective President Nick Tilsen and others were arrested July 3, 2020, duriog the protest seeking return of the Black Hills to Lakota control. He was charged with robbery and assault on a law enforcement officer. 

Tilsen agreed to diversion, but he claims South Dakota prosecutors backed out of the deal last year after he told the news media about it. In his motion to dismiss, Tilsen said his comments to reporters were protected speech under the First Amendment. 

“My case held a mirror up to the so-called legal system, where prosecutors—fueled by white fragility and fear of Indigenous power—wasted years of state resources to intimidate, criminalize, and violate me,” Tilsen said in a statement to new media last week.

He added, “The fact that I’ve gone from facing 17 years in prison to all charges dismissed is not a coincidence or an act of justice—it’s evidence that the charges were bogus from the start.”

The Associated Press reported the case was transferred earlier from Pennington County in Rapid City to Minnehaha County in Sioux Falls. 

The original prosecutor, Pennington County State’s Attorney Mark Vargo who is temporarily serving as South Dakota’s interim attorney general, said he had a conflict of interest because he was called to testify.  

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