A group of Onondaga Indians are rejecting a settlement with New York State over a 1997 incident in which State Police roughed up and arrested dozens of protesters. The Onondagas hope to force a public trial which they say would expose the behavior of troopers and corruption among the Onondaga Nation Council of Chiefs.
New York State recently reached a settlement in which $3 million would be paid among 98 people who were roughed up, beaten and illegally arrested during a May 18, 1997 protest along route 81 which turned violent. A large force of troopers wearing riot gear used batons and excessive force to drive the protesters away from Route 81. The State Police believed the indians were going to blockade Route 81 where it crosses the Onondaga Nation territory south of the city of Syracuse.
Yackta Jones rejected his share of the settlement because he says, there's "no justice. They didn't get suspended, nothing happened to none of those people who caused harm to my people."
Ronald Jones says the $40,000 the state offered as compensation means nothing to him. "They broke my back that day and they run off with $40,000 for a broken back." Jones told reporters.
The Onondagas also say a public trial would expose alleged corruption among the Onondaga Council of Chiefs. Two years after the protest, on February 11, 1999, one of the protest organizers, Ronald Jones Senior was apparently murdered. His body was found inside his burning home. Investigators determined that Jones actually died of a blow to the head, and the house was set on fire. No one has been charged, but Andrew Jones blames the Council of Chiefs for the death of his father. "Everybody's trying to hide, trying to lie... If they don't like you, your house will catch fire and burn like mine. My father was murdered by these bastards." Jones told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon.
Speaking for the Council of Chiefs, attorney Joseph Heath said federal, state and local investigators all looked into the family's claim and found no evidence that the nation's leadership was involved. "To go back to that after all these years... The council has always tried to say, let the man rest in peace." Heath said.