Racism charges levied by Broken Arrow casino supporters, opponents
BY SUSAN HYLTON World Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
BROKEN ARROW — Accusations of racism were thrown between supporters and opponents of a proposed Kialegee Tribal Town casino at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting.
During the public comment period, Jonathan Bergman read a statement from his father, Mike Bergman, who leads the group Citizens Protecting Native American Sovereignty, formerly known as Broken Arrow Residents for the Red Clay Casino.
The group is asking Councilor Jill Norman, who supported the group Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming, to either resign from the City Council or from the neighborhood group.
“(Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming) left racist and threatening posts on their Facebook page for months and has yet to apologize for them,” Bergman said. “That is a complete slap in the face to all BA citizens, especially the Native Americans.”
Mike Bergman said he provided the city with copies of some 150 “cruel and racist” comments from the neighborhood group’s members.
Jared Cawley, a spokesman for Broken Arrow Citizens Against Neighborhood Gaming, said previously that his group had nearly 1,200 Facebook users with a variety of opinions and that the group has removed offensive material.
Cawley alleged that Citizens Protecting Native American Sovereignty members have made racist remarks on their own Facebook page and that he could also provide copies to the council if needed.
“They have spit upon people, threatened to beat them up when the police aren’t around, physically threatened a member of the City Council and consistently harassed individuals on websites, Facebook and through email,” Cawley said.
Mike Bergman said he has inquired about when and where these events occurred but has been provided no details.
Bergman accused Norman of mocking the tribe by “dancing to the beat of their chants” when the sovereignty group was protesting a celebration hosted by the neighborhood group and Congressman John Sullivan following a court ruling in their favor.
“This was unbecoming of a city leader and an insult to the Kialegee Tribal Leaders, including the (Town) King (Tiger Hobia) who was also present,” Bergman said.
Norman did not speak following Bergman’s and Cawley’s statements.
Following the meeting, she declined to comment.
“She doesn’t want to dignify it with a response,” city spokeswoman Stephanie Higgins said.
The neighborhood group previously called for former Mayor Mike Lester’s resignation for not being forthcoming about when he first knew of the proposal for a casino in a partnership among Muscogee (Creek) allotment owners, the Kialegee Tribal Town and developers.
Lester stepped down from the mayor’s position but kept his seat on the council.
U.S. Chief Judge Gregory Frizzell granted an injunction against the casino at the request of Attorney General Scott Pruitt on May 18.
Frizzell said the Kialegees lacked jurisdiction on the property. The tribal town is asking Frizzell to reconsider the decision.
The group Citizens Protecting Native American Sovereignty called for the resignation of Broken Arrow City Councilor Jill Norman, seen here during a City Council meeting in February, on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file