Cherokee Nation pro peaceful assembly, marshal says
TAHLEQUAH – In light of protests across the globe in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service director says his department is “always pro peaceful assembly.”
“We’ve been asked to go to different issues with civil unrest,” Shannon Buhl told Tribal Councilors recently. “We take that very cautiously when we say yes to it. Mainly, I hope that the Council understands my philosophy at the Marshal Service and civil disobedience as far as peaceful assembly to address grievances. We agree with it. We will support the peaceful assembly, anybody to come and address a grievance, even if it is against us. We will still have marshals on the ground to help support them and protect them to do that. That’s always been my standard.”
Recent national and global protests were sparked when Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes. The officer, Derek Chauvin, is charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers who were on the scene are charged with aiding and abetting Chauvin.
Buhl said that within the CN, protests ignited in 2011 over the outcome of the principal chief’s election. On June 25, 2011, the day of the election, only a handful of votes separated then-Principal Chief Chad Smith over his challenger, then-Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker.
At the time, the Cherokee Phoenix reported that about 60 people, ranging from children to elders, gathered at the Election Commission building to protest the certified results of the race and to support Baker.
“We set up tents,” Buhl said. “We were there with them. I even had marshals running a valet service for elders that wanted to come out and protest that couldn’t walk all the way to the site. I actually drove my unit, picked them up where they could park and drove them and made sure they were alright. So we’re very pro our community members being able to voice their opinions. However, I’m not pro rioting or destruction of property or violence. I cannot atone any of that.”
As for the 2011 chief race, after recounts and hand-counting ballots, the CN Supreme Court could not determine the outcome with mathematical certainty, so a second election was held Sept. 24, 2011. Baker won that special election with nearly 54% of the vote He won re-election in 2015 before terming out in 2019.