“Onondaga 16” Begin Historic Trial to Pursue Justice for 1997 Mass Police Brutality & Attacks [Jones, et al v. Parmley, et al 5:98-cv-00374-FJS-TWD]

20 years ago hundreds of NYS police attacked babies, children, women, elders, Clan Mothers, and men during an opening ceremony to a Haudenosaunee Confederacy meeting on Interstate 81

SYRACUSE, Tuesday, September 20, 2016–– after an unprecedented 20 year delay, 16 members of the Onondaga Nation –known as the #Onondaga16– will see their first day in court for a historic trial demanding justice from NYS police after a mass police brutality incident which occurred on Onondaga-owned private property alongside Interstate 81 in 1997.

On May 18, 1997, three hundred militarized NY state troopers in riot gear –operating as a specially formed unit, “I-81 INDIAN Detail”– brutally assaulted dozens of Onondaga Nation members and supporters. They were gathered to celebrate a court-won victory against an agreement between NY State and tribal authorities to install a tax on tobacco and gas prices on the reservation, which would negatively impact an important source of revenue for the tribal economy. A focal point of the gathering also included protesting the Bureau of Indian Affairs and New York state for forcing Haudenosaunee people to recognize non-traditional leaders.

During an opening ceremony and prayer, baton wielding police –operating under the instructions to “talk to no one and take anyone you can”– began throwing babies out of their carriages causing one baby to require a double legged cast for their injuries. Children assaulted and arrested included an 11 year old and 14 year old girl who was manhandled and slammed to the ground in addition to attacks and threats on elders, medicine people, and Clan Mothers. In addition, an 85 year old Onondaga Nation Clan Mother was beaten and hospitalized. Many who sustained injuries that day continue to experience lasting health impacts and psychological trauma.

Charges are being pressed against Major Parmley, the officer who gave the “go-ahead” order for the attack, thirty five seconds after state troopers formed a skirmish line on Jones’ property. The officers intentionally removed their badges and some covered their faces in an illegal effort to protect their identities and avoid accountability for their vicious actions.

Documented evidence that demonstrates how NYSP made a concerted effort to confiscate and suppress photos and videos of the attacks. Some people arrested that day were released only under the condition that they not return to their homes or traditional lands effectively continuing the state’s agenda of forced displacement and relocations of Indigenous people.


“We are the victims of the horrific beating by the New York State Troopers “I-81 INDIAN Detail” special death squad on May 18, 1997. The court is trying to sidetrack us into procedural traps to get the case thrown out. The police video says it all. We weren’t on the road. The super armed cops invaded private property and beat us with wooden clubs. We want our day in court on the merits, not the procedures that are being set up to sideline us.”
–Kahentinetha Bear, Mohawk Nation, curator at Mohawk Nation News, and victim of the NYS I-81 Indian Detail Attacks of 1997

“It’s not just the tax. We’re protesting the Bureau of Indian Affairs and New York state telling us who we should recognize as our leaders.”
–Nikki Sun, Onondaga Nation, brother and sister were brutalized and arrested during the I-81 Indian Detail Attacks of 1997

“They came in swinging beating elders, kids, and knocked baby carriages over with the babies in them. This happened just as an Onondaga clan mother was about to burn tobacco as part of a prayer to open the meeting”
–a 1997 report back from Seneca Nation

The #Onondaga16 and their supporters request the support of people who reside within their traditional territories to attend the opening trial date which begins at 10 AM EST at 100 South Clinton St. Syracuse, NY. We demand an end to the ongoing invisibilization of this struggle and invite all local, state, national, and international media to attend and cover this trial and/or publish news media about the trial and the 1997 attacks. The trial is expected to unfold over the course of the month and take place 4 days a week. Lawyers willing to work this case pro-bono or provide legal support for the Onondaga 16 should contact Khantineta Bear immediately, info below.

Press & Media
Kahentinetha Bear, Mohawk Nation News

If you would like to participate in ongoing court support…
Indigenous people and media are encouraged to contact Wandeyu Estrada at 315.530.5890 or westrada@syr.edu
and if non-Native please contact Kat Yang-Stevens at 607.591.0607 or groundworkforpraxis@gmail.com

For ongoing Indigenous produced media and updates please visit MNN Mohawk Nation News (www.mohawknationnews.com) and Reclaim Turtle Island (www.reclaimturtleisland.com) follow @defendourlands on Twitter. #NoIndianDetail #Onondaga16 #NativeJusticeNow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *