Marie Schwab Miller, by her own admission, had never attended a protest before the summer of 2018. Then she saw the videos, the images, the stories from the border. Families being separated by government officials. Children taken from their parents for indefinite amounts of time, sometimes lost in the bureaucratic shuffle, sleeping in cages. She had to do something.
But in low-population, deep-red rural South Dakota, it turned out “doing something” would have to start with her.
“I was looking for a protest to go to and I couldn’t find one,” she said. “I said, ‘someone should organize an event,’ and it turns out that someone was me.”
The event she helped put together was the Aberdeen arm of the June 30, 2018 “Families Belong Together” protest, which also took place in Sioux Falls and Vermillion. As its name implies, the protest objected to — among other things — the separation of undocumented minors from their parents at the border. Now, a year later, she’s organizing another event. Again, she’s spearheading a local part of something much bigger. The nation-wide “Lights for Liberty” protest.
Organized by a loose confederation of grassroots activist groups like the Center for Popular Democracy and the Immigration Defense Project, along with bigger groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Lights for Liberty” is a day of demonstration and protest planned for July 12 in cities and towns across the country. The event seeks to protest what it calls “the inhumane conditions faced by refugees” in detention camps along the U.S. — Mexican border. The largest demonstrations will thus take place along the border, as well as in cities with high immigrant populations such as New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The South Dakota arm of the protest, organized by Miller, will be held in Aberdeen at 6 p.m. in the town’s Anderson Park.
Detaining immigrants — documented and otherwise — and asylum seekers in detention facilities along the Mexican border is an American practice stretching back decades. Even during the latter half of the Obama administration, reports from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) estimate that approximately 25,000 to 35,000 people were held in border facilities on any given day. Since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency in 2016, that number has increased significantly: The latest ICE reports estimate that more than 51,000 people were kept in border detention camps on a daily basis during the 2018 fiscal year. According to data compiled by the immigrants’ advocacy group “Freedom for Immigrants,” almost 60 percent of those detained are kept in for-profit private detention camps that contract with ICE.
These increased detention numbers have also been accompanied by frequent reports of facility conditions and border patrol agent actions that, if true, violate International Human Rights law. These include the indefinite separation of children from their parents, the indiscriminate confiscation of detainees’ belongings, and the denial of medical care to detainees.
Most recently, allegations have been levied against U.S Customs and Border Protection (CPB) that basic sleep comforts and hygienic goods are not being adequately provided to detained children. As multiple news outlets have now reported, a Justice Department lawyer for the Trump administration named Sarah Fabian argued last week in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, that CPB may not be obligated to provide children detained in their facilities with soap, toothpaste or toothbrushes.
While not directly calling for CPB to withhold these items from detained children, Fabian’s comments nonetheless served to confirm what many had already assumed regarding the border detention facilities: That they were little better than concentration camps, and that children were not immune to their horrors.
It’s this aspect of what even some Republican leaders are now calling a humanitarian crisis that Miller most strongly latched on to with “Lights for Liberty.”
On the Aberdeen event’s Facebook page, Miller said: “We will gather to shine a light and raise our voices against the horrific human rights abuses committed against migrants in US human detention camps. We welcome the attendance of all who share our commitment to seeing these people treated with basic dignity and concern for their physical and psychological well-being.”
Read ‘Lights for Liberty’ Part II in Monday’s Capital Journal
Boy Scout Troop 27 was treated to a hands-on learning session at Fire Station No. 1 in Pierre, June 25.
Fire Chief Ian Paul, with assist from firefighter Amanda Trimble, taught the 39 boys what they are required to master in order to advance and to earn their fire safety merit badge.
They were joined by some girls from the girls’ own Troop 27.
Objectives included learning why fires continue to burn, how to extinguish, the various firefighting trucks and their purposes; and actually utilizing Bullz Eye (practice putting out fires).
Boys Scouts range in age from 12 to 17. For younger youth, there are Cub Scout Packs. Troop 27, Pierre, is headed by Scoutmaster Mike Jacobson. Besides the many varied activities, their regular meetings are every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the First United Methodist Church (the chartering organization). “Call first (280-6472), or just show up, and we’ll get you straightened out on what to do,” said Mike, about youth interested in maybe joining the Scouts.
“The troop has grown from 15 boys to 39 boys in the last two years,” said Lori Jacobson, the area’s chartered organization representative. “There is growing activity at the upcoming Cub Scout level, and the Scouts themselves have been out campling and garnering school and friend support through telling of their interesting and fun activities, and the parents are helping too. Kids are looking for something to do, to belong to something; not all kids can be a sports hero or are video gamers.”
Lori covers Troop 27 and Cub Scout Pack 127. There are two other packs in the Pierre area. The area’s Scouts participate in both the Sioux Council (Sioux Falls-based) and the Black Hills (Rushmore) Council. “They get variety that way,” said Lori Jacobson. “We travel to camps in South Dakota every other year. Last year they went to K.M. Scout Ranch in Montana, for among other things rock climbing. They’ve gone down by Freemont, Nebraska, for among other things horseback riding. Some were in Florida Key Base on a work-based camp, for snorkeling and deep sea fishing, and learning about oceanography and ocean conservation. Where do you learn about that around here?”
“The fire hall meeting was a good meeting. Lots of info, such as fire needs three things — oxygen, heat and fuel,” Lori Jacobson said. “There are different kinds of fire extinguishers (for grease fires go for the ABC extinguisher), and different kinds of fires. The fire department provides free smoke-detectors. We were told, for personal safety sake, ‘If the fire is bigger than you, leave.’ ”
“Occasionally I’ll have organizations contact me for a fire tour or a class,” said Paul. “The Scouts got a tour, information and practice. We do the fire extinguisher drill with a propane training prop. It gets them a lot more comfortable when they have to do the real deal.”
He said that, on average, tours happen about once a month, for kids’ programs or even private business employees’ office building training. Paul, the department’s only paid firefighter, oversees 55 volunteers. The classes teach fire dynamics, how to use extinguishers, and when not to use them. The department is in its fourth year of a Junior Fire Cadet program, where 14-year-and-older volunteers can learn and train with real firefighters.
“After a certain amount of training, they may respond as support on the ground, but are not allowed to fight a fire,” said Paul. Of the requirements of registered volunteers is they must be at least 18.
“Of the Scouts at the training, some are earning their fire safety merit badge or working on first aid, some just attending a general summer meeting. Scouting is about learning and engaging in the community,” said Lori Jacobson. “Boys are part of the troop for many reasons: to earn their Eagle badge (Boy Scout’s top rank); to be part of a group, learn about/help their community; participating, learning and earning badges; camping and/or just having fun.The boys will be participating in River Cleanup in July. They just got back from hiking Harney Peak.” On July they will camp in Nebraska.
For more fire department information, contact from the fire department, contact Fire Chief Ian Paul. For more scouting information, call Scoutmaster Mike Jacobson at 280-6472 or organisational representative Lori Jacobson at 280 3920.
A deployment ceremony on Saturday, July 27, will see off 69 soldiers of the South Dakota Army National Guard’s 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion.
The public is encouraged to attend the 2 p.m. ceremony at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre. Planned speakers include Governor Kristi Noem, Pierre Mayor Steve Harding, and Major General Jeff Marlette, South Dakota National Guard Adjutant General.
According to Anthony Deiss, of the SD National Guard public affairs office, the unit has been ordered to do a nine-month deployment to the Middle East to provide multifunctional logistics and support operations.
“Multifunctional logistics involves the movement, sustainment and maintenance of military forces,” Deiss said.“The 152nd is a headquarters element responsible for planning and synchronizing sustainment and integrating subordinate units into sustainment operations. It supports Army forces at the tactical and operational levels operating in its area that work to acquire, store, distribute materials and supplies such as: water, food, fuel, ammunition, medical supplies, equipment, repair parts, construction materials, as well as maintenance support.”
The unit will first report to Fort Hood, Texas, to complete several weeks of theater-specific training prior to deployment overseas.
“I don’t have a breakdown (by hometowns), but what I do know is of the 69 going they come from 29 South Dakota communities,” Deiss said.
This is the second mobilization for the 152nd CSSB since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The unit first deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2013. Of the 69 local Guardsmen, this is the second deployment for 22 of them and the third deployment for 10.
While under deployment, National Guard soldiers serve under salary.
“They receive the same pay and benefits as active duty service members. Their salary is determined by rank,” Deiss said.
It is up to each Guardsman’s civilian employer on how they work out the Guardsman’s employment status. “Most soldiers are just in a non-paid leave status. Sometimes employers hire temporary replacements until they return. When they return, soldiers have reemployment rights under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA),” Deiss said.
Little, if any, South Dakota National Guard equipment is going with the unit. “They mostly just have their personal gear. Much of the equipment they will use is already in theater,” Deiss said.
For the people left at home, Deiss added, “We typically don’t provide updates to missions or what they are doing due to operational security. If we receive anything we can share with the media or public, we will.”
Diess supplied photos from last year of the unit training at Fort Irwin, California, which training helped prepare them for this upcoming deployment.
According to Capital Journal articles from 2013, the 2013 activation ceremony for the 152nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the South Dakota National Guard lasted roughly an hour, but it was far later that the Guardsmen were finally able to rest after personally meeting the estimated 400 people who had nearly filled the school’s auditorium.
Friends, family and grateful citizens wished the 68 volunteer soldiers good luck during the unit’s first active duty deployment since being formed more than five years earlier. Some Guardsmen had extended family visiting from all parts of the state.
The unit had been aware of the deployment for two years, and had begun extensive training nine months in advance. This original deployment was for nine months in Afghanistan, but was shortened to six months.
During the 2013 ceremony, Lt. Col. Mike Oster, the unit’s commanding officer, said many of the unit’s members were on their second or third deployment.
Through it all, South Dakotans were phenomenally supportive, and Oster noted that only about a quarter of the 152nd’s soldiers were from the Pierre area. Both Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill and Governor Dennis Daugaard told how the community turned to the Guard for support during the 2011 flood.
National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tim Reisch said, “It was citizen soldiers, not a standing army, that created these United States of America.”
On December 17, 2013, a welcome home ceremony was held for the returning guardsmen. A parade for the 152nd preceded the welcome home ceremony. The unit’s mission was to provide multi-functional combat support and combat service support to forces throughout an assigned area of operation. Multi-functional areas included supply, transportation, maintenance and ordnance support.
For the 2013 welcome home ceremony, yellow ribbons were tied along the route between the airport and the National Guard armory.
Reisch told about an email he received from General Frank J. Grass, a four-star general who was chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grass had met the 152nd during their deployment, and was impressed. Daugaard and others also commented on the sheer amount of support the unit received, and that only 12 members of the unit are actually from the area.
Oster said the five-year-old unit felt it had become as much a part of the community as the more established 200th Engineering Company, also based in Pierre.
Oster told the audience the unit had achieved all its goals – including the overriding mission to bring everyone home safely.
By Del Bartels, Capital Journal
Multiple times a year, Pierre Solid Waste Manager Val Keller and her department crew burn trees and related materials at the Material Recovery Site north of the county jail/women’s prison east of Pierre.
The smoke could be seen by residents and visitors on the morning of June 27. It was a smaller burn, but the crew wanted to take advantage of the current weather conditions. The resulting white ash pile, though, would seem huge to most people.
The number of burns depends on quantity of materials, and of course the weather. In these burns, the material consists of only tree branches, stumps, and such items that have been brought to the facility by the public and by businesses.
“We do allow people to come get firewood any time during our hours of operations,” said Keller. “They need to come across the scale at the Solid Waste Facility to get access to the site.” Though, Keller pointed out, the firewood is free as long as you cut it and load it into your own vehicle. It is local wood, not firewood from other areas.
Dumping these specific materials at the city facility is also free.
The Material Recovery Site is owned and operated by the city of Pierre, thus its employees do the burning.
“The Department of Energy and Natural Resources is notified and it is documented in our file and in accordance with our permit for the facility,” said Keller.
On Thursday June 27, The BankWest office on Pierre Street hosted a heart-health research fundraiser in its parking lot, in partnership with the American Heart Association (AHA) of South Dakota. The event ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and consisted of bank employees allowing themselves to be dropped into a dunk tank by anyone with the arm and aim to trip the tank’s trigger with softballs. Not the most elaborate of fundraisers, but effective.
Each softball throw cost a few dollars and, combined with pledges that had been collected earlier in the week, the fundraiser ended up raising more than $4,000 by the time it finished up. As an added bonus, the BankWest CEO, Charles H. Burke III, promised to match the raised amount — bringing the total amount for the AHA to a little over $8,000.
The event was planned and organized by a BankWest employee Clarissia Drefs. Drefs said that the idea came to her “about a month ago,” and that she had worked with her coworkers to make the event a reality since then.
“[The event planning] has taken it a lot longer than I expected it to, but it all turned out really well,” she said. “It exceeded my expectations which are usually pretty high, so that’s awesome.”
A representative from the AHA who was present for the fundraiser, Robin Albers, said this was only one of several different fundraising efforts the local AHA was undertaking with BankWest. Others included a 5k “Heart Walk” to take place on Saturday, September 21 in Pierre’s Hyde Stadium.
“We partnered with BankWest for the Heart Walk here in Pierre; they’re our lead local sponsor… the funds raised at the Heart Walk will support local and national research… for heart and brain health,” Albers said.
The Heart Walk will also feature a quilt raffle — no central South Dakota fundraising effort is complete without a quilt raffle. Tickets for the raffle will be available until September 21. Contact Albers at (605) 484-1853 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
“It’s an event in itself which is already in the planning,” Drefs said of the Heart Walk.
There was one aspect of the “Dunkin’” fundraiser — otherwise successful — that several people the Capital Journal spoke to gently criticized: The food offered to attendees consisted of grilled brats, potato chips, cookies and lots of sugary soft drinks — all foods the AHA has declared heart-unhealthy.
Drefs said the food selection wasn’t much up to her or her coworkers.
“That part, it kind of collaborated with a BankWest community customer appreciation thing,” she said. “That’s why that was that.”
But while the high-fat, high-sugar menu may have garnered some raised eyebrows from some, at least one important fundraiser attendee, Elizabeth Zavesky, considered it just part of the price of success. Another founder of the event, Zavesky owned the dunk tank into which BankWest employees were plunged for several hours.
“It’s a good event, they raised a lot of money, it’s for a good cause,” she said. “I get it though. That’s something that a lot of people like to eat. If you serve something else, most people won’t come.”