I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

David Rovics: We Are Everywhere

To my fellow activists now struggling through life - let this be a reminder that you are not alone and that we desperately need you here. All the injustice, grief, war, and human suffering calls for us to stay and do everything we can about it - you can't help us anymore when you're gone. Don't give up the fight - your last shred of hope may just keep someone else alive, too.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CLASS ACTION: 'Parsons v Ryan' - Medical neglect and suicide at the AZ DOC

Join us to support 14 prisoners suing Charles Ryan, Director of the Department of Corrections and Richard Pratt, Director of Health Services for gross negligence, deliberate indifference, and unconstitutional conditions of confinement. 

CLASS ACTION Memorial Mural
Friday, Jan 25, 7:30-9:30am 

Sandra Day O'Connor Federal Courthouse 
401 W. Washington St. PHOENIX

We will make a chalk mural outside the Sandra Day O'Connor court house in solidarity with these 14 prisoners who are fighting to change the criminal neglect of health care of Arizona prisoners. The mural will remember those who have been lost under this administration.

These are the stories of those still fighting for their lives:

Victor Parsons has ADHD and bipolar disorder. In June 2010, his medication was abruptly discontinued without explanation. When he began to experience psychotic symptoms, he submitted a request for treatment. His medication was restarted abruptly without titrating, placing him at high risk for severe side effects. When his tooth filling fell out, they gave him a temporary filing which fell out weeks later. Each time he was seen, he was given a temporary filing again, forcing him to restart the process.

Shawn Jensen had an elevated score on a Prostrate Antigen Test and a nodule on his prostrate in November 2006. The prison doctor ordered a prostrate biopsy in 2007, but Shawn did not receive the biopsy until 2009. By that time, he had Stage 2 prostrate cancer, an aggressive form. He experienced delays of two months in getting medication prescribed by his urologist. He was not taken for surgery until July 2010, and as a result, suffered permanent injuries.

Stephen Schwartz was assaulted by another inmate in February 2010. He suffered eye injuries and extensive facial fractures, but was not referred to an opthamologist until January 2011, almost a year later. He filed numerous health care grievances for his pain, but waited months to learn whether pain medications would be approved. He was also diagnosed with bipolar and major depressive disorder, but has received inadequate mental health care while on suicide watch.

Dustin Brislan has bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, and borderline personality disorder, with a designation of SMI (Serious Mental Illness). He engages in severe self-injurious behavior, including cutting, head banging, and self-starvation. As a result of his mental illness, he experiences depression, hallucinations, sucidal ideation, and paranoia. Despite the severity of his condition, the Dpt of Corrections has failed to provide him with minimally adequate mental health care. He has had medications delayed, has not been regularly monitored by a psychiatrist, and has been on suicide watch for excessive lengths of time without adequate supervision, where he committed repeated acts of self-harm.

Sonia Rodriguez is also designated as SMI, and experiences depression, anxiety and hallucinations. The Dpt of Corrections has failed to provide therapeutic treatment and has kept her in cruel and inhumane confinement in Perryville's and on suicide watch. The harsh conditions and extreme isolation of the Special Management Unit (SMU) and on suicide watch. On multiple occasions, her medicine has been abruptly changed without explanation. As a result, she has severe side effects, including uncontrolled shaking, difficulty sleeping, and worsening of her mental health symptoms.

Christina Verduzco is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. She experiences auditory and visual hallucinations, anxiety, paranoia, and self-harm by cutting herself. She is confined in Perryville SMU and placed on suicide watch on several occasions. While on suicide watch, Christina is forced to wear a smock that barely comes up to the top of her thighs. The lights are kept on 24 hours a day, and she is subjected to 'safety checks' every 10-30 minutes a day where correctional officers wake her if she is asleep. She has minimal human contact, cannot go outside, cannot brush her teeth or bathe regularly. Outside of suicide watch, her experience is similar: extended isolation, limited exercise, and limited therapeutic treatment. Christina has asthma, but has been pepper sprayed repeatedly by correctional officers. After being sprayed, she has been dragged out of her cell, hosed down, and thrown back into her cell.

Jackie Thomas is diagnosed with depression and seizure disorders. Although Jackie did not have suicidal ideation when he first arrived at the SMU, his mental and medical health conditions have deteriorated during his isolation in the SMU. He was placed on suicide watch many times, where he received minimal mental health care. He has experienced many failures of his medical treatment, including improper cessation and initiation of psychtropic medications, failure to administer prescribed medication, repeated use of ineffective medications with severe side effects, lack of informed consent, and long delays in follow up and psychiatric evaluation.

Jeremy Smith has depression, aggravated by interruptions in his mental health treatment and prolonged isolation in the SMU. His medications have been abruptly discontinued without explanation and restarted at inappropriate times and after lengthy delays. Jeremy has also been prescribed powerful medications not indicated for depression.

Robert Gamez suffered a childhood head injury and was diagnosed with borderline IQ, possible Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and possible frontal lobe dysfunction, symptoms of which include major depression, panic and anxiety. Although his symptoms are consistent with frontal lobe dysfunction, the Dpt of Corrections never conducted follow-up tests to confirm his diagnosis. He has experienced multiple interruptions in care, received improper medications, and was not given psychological services for his pronounced mental health deterioration during his prolonged isolation in SMU. In August 2009, Robert began experiencing intense paranoia, anxiety, panic, and psychosis, asking to be taken off his medication and out of isolation. Despite his severe condition, he was not seen for five months.

Maryanne Chisholm has been diagnosed with hypertension but was not referred to a cardiologist for eight months, despite experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. She has bipolar disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and depressive disorder. Maryanne has experienced significant delays in psychiatric care, medications, and follow-up, which has contributed to worsening symptoms. In April 2011, she had a nervous breakdown and requested an adjustment of medication; she was not seen for a month. Her mental health condition is exacerbated by guard harrassment. She has been subject to repeated and frequent room searches, and her art supplies, which she relies on to manage metal health symptoms, were confiscated.

Desiree Licci has a family and personal history of cancer. In 2010, she observed multiple masses growing on her breasts, mouth, and arms. In December 2010, Desiree requested testing. In April 2011, the prison doctor referred her to an oncologist. However, she was not seen for a CT scan until September 2011. In the interim, she began experiencing diarrhea, nausea, exhaustion, weight loss, and pain. Desiree did not receive an MRI until December 2011 and it was not properly administered. She had to submit a grievance and wait another month until a proper MRI was done, confirming multiple masses on both ovaries.

Joseph Hefner's vision rapidly deteriorated after a Dpt of Corrections nurse gave him expired eye drops. In 2006 and 2008, Joseph did not receive timely doctor-prescribed eye medication following eye surgery. Although he has submitted numerous health care requests for eye pain and his doctor has referred him to the opthamologist, he has been waiting to see an opthamologist for over three years.

Joshua Polson has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mood disorder, and psychosis. He has a family history of suicide and has attempted suicide three times. Nonetheless, he is in isolation, where he has minimal human contact, which results in increased suicidal ideation. He has experienced repeated gaps in his medication and sporadic monitoring of his medication levels. Additionally, he has chronic ear infections, and permanent hearing loss in his right ear following significant delays in care. After losing hearing in his right ear, Joshua submitted health care requests for pain in his left ear, but was not seen for over a month.

Charlotte Wells has a history of heart disease and high blood pressure and suffered a heart attack prior to being incarcerated. She arrived in custody complaining of chronic chest pains, and continued to experience dizziness and high blood pressure, but was not seen by a cardiologist until she was hospitalized for a blocked artery four months later. Charlotts was not seen by a doctor or returned to the hospital thereafter, despite her history and the high risk of heart attack following the placement of a stent. Additionally, Charlotte experienced broken fillings in two of her teeth in 2010. She complained of pain and requested fillings be repaired, but was told the only option was to have the teeth pulled, or wait months to have the filling approved. She did this, and endured pain for several months before her fillings were replaced; however, when she got the filling, the dentist cracked an adjacent tooth.

The hearing will be in Judge Neil Wake's courtroom at 3 pm. The mural will take place the morning of the hearing, at 7:30 - 9:30 am.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DREAM ACTivists Acting Up: NY TIMES

Blessings to my friend Fernando for narrating his struggle and lending his time and energy to helping others. The DREAM ACTivists and folks at PUENTE are doing some awesome organizing these days. I'm glad to see the NY Times is paying attention.

Sounds of Resistance: "WE ARE HUMAN!!!"
Bullhorns at PUENTE , just one site of migrant justice organizing in Phoenix
Photo taken during cross-movement potluck held by Puente and Indigenous IDLE NO MORE activists 
(PUENTE: 1306 E. Van Buren St, Phoenix AZ)

Phoenix rally in front of ICE to support Erika Andiola's mother and siblings, who were arrested and nearly deported last week; it's believed they were targeted due to Erika's DREAM ACTivism (Jan 11, 2013). The family was reunited after nationwide protests over their planned deportation.

DREAMers banner drop at the AZ State Legislature on 2013 opening day. 
I have mized feeling about the DREAM act, myself - I don't like things that promote military service, for starters - but these young people rock!

(Phoenix New Times January 14, 2013)


Undocumented Reformers

January 10, 2013
New York Times

Despite the risk of deportation, undocumented immigrants in Arizona are organizing to influence the pending debate on immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Pissing on the PEAKS: Snowbowl makes the NY Times.

this year, Snowbowl celebrates 75 years by spewing sewage all over the sacred San Francisco Peaks to fatten their purses...

"Snowbowel: 75 Years of Desecration..."
 Snowbowl Road, Flagstaff
New Year's Day 2013

 for more on the desecration of the Peaks, see

Indigenous activists and allies in Flagstaff, January 8, 2013

Thoughts on Snowbowl from the New York Times, below. 
Too bad they missed the beautiful action above.

January 11, 2013, 6:02 pm

Discolored Slopes Mar Debut of Snow-Making Effort

After a decade of legal battles, a ski resort in Northern Arizona recently became the first in the world to make artificial snow totally out of sewage effluent. On Dec. 24, Arizona Snowbowl fired up its snow guns for the first time, and to everyone's surprise, the snow that blasted onto the mountain was yellow.
The discolored snow has sharpened an already fraught conflict.

Snowbowl's manager, J. R. Murray, said the problem was caused by rusty residue in the new snow-making equipment that carries the wastewater from neighboring Flagstaff, where it is piped directly from the town's sewage treatment plant.

But Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, a conservation group, says something seems fishy. "I question whether that explanation is based on tests of the water or conjecture," he said.  "Something's awry, and the onus is on the Forest Service and ADEQ to protect the public and determine the cause." (ADEQ is the acronym for the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.)

As I have reported, environmentalists and Native American groups have long opposed the ski area's snow-making plan, arguing that the wastewater snow poses risks to public health and the ecology of a mountain considered sacred by 13 American Indian tribes.

Mike Fulton, water quality division director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the agency was "looking hard" into several complaints it had received claiming that the presence of the manufactured snow on the slopes violated state laws on the use of reclaimed water, which prohibit ingesting it. Critics argue, among other things, that wastewater snow is being tracked into eating areas and that children are playing in it and touching their faces with it.

The water used for making snow at the ski area is not drinking water. Studies have found that it contains hormones, pharmaceuticals, antibiotics and other chemicals. There is much debate about whether these chemicals are harmful in small amounts.

Regardless, the discolored snow has meant Snowbowl has to contend with a heightened ick factor. Kaelan Monroe, 11, said he went skiing on New Year's Day and that the conditions were "kind of disgusting."

"The snow is crusty and icy and doesn't look very clean," he said. But that won't keep him from Snowbowl, where he has skied since age 3, he said. "I'm not too worried about face-planting in the snow and getting sick," said Kaelan, who describes himself as a proficient skier.

Arizona Snowbowl operates on public land under a special-use permit issued by the Forest Service. In 2005, the agency approved the ski area's upgrade plans, including artificial snow-making, after conducting a long environmental impact study.

That study "did not predict that the snow would be yellow," Mr. McKinnon said.

He said the yellow snow and "a growing list of unforeseen impacts," including new scientific research that indicates harmful chemicals in the wastewater, have rendered the 2005 study obsolete. "Snowbowl would be smart to update the study before they're forced to do so in court," Mr. McKinnon said.
Mr. Murray counters that the excitement over the yellow snow is "a lot to do about a small issue."
"No one here even cares except for those that oppose us," he said.

However, a worker hired just before Christmas for making snow said that his impression had been that the management was concerned about the image problem posed by the yellow snow. The worker, Grayson Lookner, said part of his job had been to drain the snow guns when they were not in use and he was told to drag them into the woods so the ski trails would not turn yellow.

He said he worked there only eight days and then resigned because the work was quite hard and he felt a growing unease. "I didn't feel right about blowing" the effluent "all over a sacred mountain," he said. Snowbowl confirmed that Mr. Lookner was employed by the resort from Dec. 20 to 28.

With climate change and prolonged drought in arid places like the Southwest, the use of reclaimed water is gaining importance as a conservation tool. Snowbowl officials portray the resort as on the cutting-edge of creative water recycling. Opponents argue that economic interests are driving a federal wastewater policy that puts commerce ahead of ecology.

Snowbowl officials have said that, because of reduced snowfall, the resort needs to make snow to stay in business. And so far snow-making has been a boon for the resort, it says. "The skiing is great! The pipes are now cleansed," Mr. Murray said in an e-mail.

State environmental officials say they have sent an inspector to Snowbowl and expect to complete an investigation next week. And Mr. Fulton said the agency had already worked with Snowbowl to construct barriers around the ski lifts to prevent overspray from entering the adjacent forest, where endangered plants grow in the fragile alpine tundra.

Potential harm to that that habitat was the focus of a lawsuit that was recently settled out of court.

To date, the discolored snow has not been tested.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex

Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex from Because We Must on Vimeo.

Excellent panel: Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex from Because We Must on Vimeo. Gender and the Prison Industrial Complex: Towards a Queer, Trans and Feminist Abolition Politic A wonderful thought provoking panel by Eric Stanley, Dean Spade, Ralowe Ampu, and Vikki Law. 

AZ Republic puts Chris Wilson's victims on trial...

The Arizona Republic yesterday portrayed former Detective Chris Wilson as victim of exaggerations and misunderstandings, not a real suspect in repeated episodes of child sexual abuse. They must not have read the same charging documents I saw, where he pleaded guilty to sexually abusing those boys in detail. Maybe they didn't know he was stalking young activists at Occupy, too, building trusting relationships with them while treating most of the rest of us like criminals.

Hey, Republic: There's a reason this man has been portrayed the way he's been portrayed....some people did their homework - some of your people, even. Nice of him to let you interview him - look, he even gave you a pretty photo to use, instead of that one where he's a scowling cop or an accused criminal in his undershirt. 

This is nothing but a staged PR stunt, set up by Campos, who is using the Republic to attack the victims in full view of potential jurors out here, of course, to save his client. Campos is alleging that the kids were the ones who led this poor, noble, naive, trusting, navy veteran dog-loving decorated police detective astray, seducing him into what was really nothing more than an exercise of "poor judgement". Children, I guess, are the ones who can't be trusted when they report sexual abuse, and the policeman is unquestionably still the good guy here - how pathetic.

his bastard had to be court-ordered to even give up a sample of blood to see if he could have passed HIV or any other disease to the kids. His attorney argued that the kids could have been the ones who gave him and STD. The Republic mention that when they argued that this suspect wasn't "big into the gay scene" (which is defined in stereotypical terms of going to gay bars and drinking). Nope - Wilson just picked up children at work to have sex with...).

Why would such a swell guy refuse his victims' request to be tested, anyway? The only thing he regrets, apparently, is losing everything he loves by getting caught, for which we are supposed to have sympathy - never mind the harm he has has caused by his actions - to his victims, first, as well as to the trust of the larger community and the credibility of the Phoenix Police.

Here's the letter I submitted for the AZ Republic's editors today complaining about this article below - we'll see if they have the honesty to print it: 

"Yesterday's article about former Phoenix Police Detective Chris Wilson was disturbing. It presented him as a poor, misunderstood character who is deserving of our sympathy now that he's facing ten counts of child sexual abuse and stuck in jail pending trial. The reporter described his daily suffering, noted how this decent Navy Veteran spent his 44th birthday in jail, and even asserted that that he isn't promiscuous as if it was some kind of relevant fact, making him less likely to be guilty of the crimes he confessed to. She framed the charges against him as "allegations", putting "child molestation" in quotes as if it may not have really happened. She gives voice to the defense's argument that it wasn't really child abuse if the victims are already "experienced" with older men (what??). She leads readers to suspect that poor Detective Wilson was seduced, manipulated into being their friend, and is now being prosecuted as a result of these devious, sexually-active "young adults". In so doing, your reporter just helped a sociopath who confessed to molesting two children put his victims on trial. Shame on her and your editorial staff for letting Wilson use the Republic this way."

-------------from the Arizona Republic----------------------

Christopher J. Wilson
Courtesy of Robert Campos

By Cecilia Chan
The Republic |
Wed Jan 9, 2013 7:27 PM
Christopher J. Wilson spends his days pacing, reading and thinking about his life.

“I focus on what kind of life I have and what kind of future I have, which is pretty much non-existent,” Wilson says. “My life is over. Every day I think about it.”

Since his Aug. 7 arrest, the former Phoenix police officer spends his day in a 12-foot by 7-foot cell, facing 10 felony counts of sexual conduct with two underage boys. The Arizona Republic does not name victims of sexual crimes.

Wilson is housed alone for his protection in the administrative segregation unit of Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix. He is confined to his cell 23 hours a day, only allowed outside for an hour a day to a small recreation yard, where he says he looks at the freedom he used to have.

“What I want the public to know about me is I am not a monster as the media is portraying me,” said Wilson, who spent his 44th birthday in jail. “I didn’t use my position to groom these individuals. I am just a normal person, trying to live my life.”

Wilson is accused of having two sexual encounters with a 17-year-old and once with a 14-year-old boy. Wilson worked as a liaison to the Valley's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and met his accusers through his job, police has said.

Wilson, who is openly gay, was a 14-year veteran with the Phoenix Police Department receiving glowing annual reviews from his supervisors.

Wilson said he chose law enforcement because he loved serving the community. He also served four years in the U.S. Navy and a brief stint as a detention officer with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Wilson told The Republic on Wednesday that he “wasn’t big into the gay scene,” drinking alcohol or going to gay bars.

Instead, Wilson, who’s had steady boyfriends, preferred mountain hiking or catching a movie with friends.

According to court records, the mother of the 14-year-old boy learned of the encounter and contacted the authorities.

The family of the 14-year-old has since filed a $10 million notice of claim, the first step toward a lawsuit, against the Phoenix Police Department, Wilson and Assistant Chief of Police Tracy Montgomery.

It alleges that the department and Montgomery were negligent in the supervision of Wilson, which resulted in the “sexual molestation” of the 14-year-old, who is traumatized.

City spokeswoman Toni Maccarone said the claim is under review and could not comment further.

Wilson said he was not a boyfriend or dated the older boy, who was living on his own.

Wilson said he did buy three suits and shirts for the older boy for work because someone had done the same for him when he was a struggling police reservist in Colorado.

“I did this out of my own good will,” said Wilson, who added he didn’t expect anything in return. “We were just friends.”

His attorney Robert Campos would not let Wilson discuss any specifics about the allegations.

Though Wilson acknowledged to police he knew both boys were underage and took the blame, Campos said Wilson neither admits or denies the allegations.

He also said that Wilson’s statements to police during his interrogation may not be admissible but declined to go into detail.

During Wednesday’s interview, Campos hinted at the strategy he might pursue to defend Wilson in court.

Campos characterized the two boys as “young adults” who have some culpability, not victims. Campos painted the two boys as far more mature than their age and experienced in relationships with older men.

Campos said the encounter, although unlawful, was one of mutual consent. He said the media have portrayed Wilson as a pedophile going after young children or grooming them a long time for sex.

“Certainly that is not the case here,” Campos said.

Instead, “it appears from our perspective (the two boys) set this up” and “they had already in their minds the potential of having some kind of relationship with my client,” he said.

Campos said Wilson was not blaming the victims but “he is saying they aren’t blameless.”

“My client used poor judgment,” Campos said. “And he was quite cooperative with the authorities but cooperation does not equate with justice in our system and that is a huge problem.”

Wilson says he regrets what has happened.

“I would have done things different,” he said. “Losing everything that I love hurts.”

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Federal Persecution of Indigenous Activists steps up.

I lifted the following posts from Indigenous Action Media to catch myself up to speed on the resistance in Arizona. I spent New Year's Eve with Klee Benally and a small gathering of friends in Flagstaff, and saw the sunrise from the San Francisco Peaks before leaving the gift below at the entrance to Snowbowl Road. I was deeply troubled by all I learned about the US Attorney's office's latest attacks on Klee and his comrades. 

As many readers of this blog know, Snowbowl is celebrating 75 years of desecration this year with a new feature: treated sewage effluent. Flagstaff's waste water has extended their season as well as the amount of recreational activities they offer now. Of course, it's not only a health and environmental concern, but the spewing of sewage all over the mountain is desecrating a sacred site, a continuation of the genocidal process the prison industrial complex is now playing its part in perpetrating - witness the persecution of Indigenous resisters to the violence against their people and culture, and join us in solidarity actions. 

You don't need a Facebook event page or a whole crew to make your own thoughts on the desecration known, by the way...this was done by my lonesome with simple food coloring and spray bottles, and I set up my tripod so my camera was watching my back. Always make sure someone is watching your back...

 Snowbowl Road Entrance, Flagstaff
New Year's Day 2013

Below are the last three posts from Indigenous Action Media. They do good work there. Please support them every way you can. Info from their site:

Indigenous Action Media (IAM) was founded on August 25th, 2001 to provide strategic media support and direct action to address issues impacting Indigenous communities.

IAM offers media strategy consultation and support in the face of environmental & social injustices. We do this through direct support, workshops, web and graphic design services, documentaries and youth empowerment projects.

We are a volunteer collective of experienced Indigenous media makers & activists that work together on a project by project basis for media justice from an anti-colonial & anti-capitalist framework.


Peaks Activists Targeted with Federal Charges and Arrest Warrants as Forest Service Announces New Sacred Sites Policy

December 10, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
Klee Benally

National Forest Service Announces New Sacred Sites Policy at the Same Time That Flagstaff Peaks Activists Are Targeted with Federal Charges and Arrest Warrants 
Peaks Activists Vow to Fight Charges and Plan to Turn themselves Over to U.S. Marshalls 
What: Peaks activist Klee Benally and others expected to be arrested
When: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 8:15 a.m
Where: US Marshall’s Office 123 N. San Francisco St, Flagstaff, AZ

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — On the same day that secretary Tom Vilsack of the US Department of Agriculture issued a final report on Sacred Sites and an inter-agency memorandum to work towards Sacred Sites protection, the Coconino Forest Service filed federal charges against four Sacred Sites advocates who were part of a protest at the Forest Service offices three months earlier.

On September 21, 2012 more than a dozen Flagstaff community members peacefully delivered letters to address the US Department of Agriculture’s policy on sacred places. While community members delivered the letters, a “quarantine” was also theatrically staged in the Coconino National Forest Service lobby to protest the agency’s role in approving of an Arizona Snowbowl ski area expansion and snowmaking with treated sewage effluent on the Holy San Francisco Peaks. Several members of the theatrical staging wore white suits and held caution tape with signs that said, “Quarantine Snowbowl,” “Forest Service Kills Native Culture, Stop Snowbowl,” and “Protect the Sacred.”

The four protestors are facing multiple counts (Section 261.3a) of a misdemeanor charge for allegedly interfering with a Forest officer. The statute reads, “Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any forest officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System is prohibited.”

“Not only are these federal charges absurd, they are an attack on freedom of expression,” stated Klee Benally, a Dine’ (Navajo) activist who has been advocating for Indigenous religious freedom and protection of the holy Peaks for more than 14 years. “The fact that the USFS would bring these charges the same day they released their report on the protection of sacred sites demonstrates that they are not acting in good faith.”

Klee Benally delivered two letters to acting Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart calling for an immediate halt to ski area expansion and snowmaking with treated sewage effluent on the holy San Francisco Peaks. The letters were addressed to the Obama administration and included: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack, Senior Adviser for Tribal Affairs USDA Janie Hipp, Coconino National Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart, and Counselor to the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Dion Killsback. The letters called for the termination of Snowbowl’s Special Use Permit and the protection of sacred places.

The letters also focused on public health concerns due to contaminants in the treated sewage effluent that Snowbowl ski resort intends on using for snowmaking on the Holy site and demanded a moratorium on the use of treated sewage effluent, commonly called reclaimed wastewater to avoid the “ick factor”, in public places.

“I entered the building with a group of people and requested to speak to Forest Supervisor Earl Stewart, we had a cordial conversation, he accepted letters regarding the sacred sites policy, we shook hands multiple times. We broke no laws. The Forest Service is the one who is violating the law of the creator.” stated Benally. “Myself and others will turn ourselves over to the U.S. Marshall tomorrow at 8:15 a.m. so we can move towards ending this act of repression and political retaliation against us by the US Forest Service.”

The U.S. Marshall’s office is located at 123 N. San Francisco St.. Benally and others are expected to be arrested and appear before a judge for arraignment at 10:00 a.m.

According to the Forest Service complaint, the fire department and a hazmat team were called to address a potentially hazardous spill of clear liquid that had flooded the Forest Service lobby floor after protesters exited. An unknown individual allegedly tipped over a 5 gallon bucket full of what the hazmat team determined to be treated sewage effluent.

“These charges are absurd! The irony is that the USFS has authorized Snowbowl to spill more than one million five hundred thousand gallons of treated sewage effluent per day onto a rare and pristine alpine habitat. Yet they feel its appropriate to call hazmat when a pail of wastewater is allegedly poured onto their polished tile floors? I hold the USFS liable for the environmental poisoning that is set to occur on the Peaks right now,” stated Flagstaff resident Evan Hawbaker.

On December 6, 2012, while addressing more than 500 Indigenous leaders at the “White House Tribal Nations Conference” Secretary Vilsack unveiled a sacred sites report stating, “This report represents a commitment by USDA and other agencies to be better partners and improve communications about Sacred Sites, better protecting those sites, access and provide government-wide training to ensure that there is a better understanding of the relationship those sites have to decisions we make.” Vilsack continued, “While we have made strides in improving services to Tribes, much is left to be done. One step we are taking today is the filing of our Sacred Sites report.”

“The President is insistent that these Sacred Sites be protected and preserved: treated with dignity and respect.  That is also my commitment as Secretary of USDA.  I know my fellow Secretaries share in this commitment.  We understand the importance of these sites and will do our best to make sure they are protected and respected.” Vilsack stated.


Read the delivered letters here:

Read the sacred sites report here:

News Release: Peaks Supporters Face Federal Charges in ‘Politically Motivated Attack’

December 12, 2012
Forest Service attempts to ‘Ban’ Peaks Activists from the Peaks to Prevent Further Protests

December 12, 2012
Klee Benally

Peaks Supporters Face Federal Charges in ‘Politically Motivated Attack’
Forest Service attempts to ‘Ban’ them from the Peaks to Prevent Further Protests

Note to editors: Video of September 21, 2012 protest available upon request.

Klee Benally sings before being arrested.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — On December 11, 2012 three Peaks activists peacefully turned themselves over to U.S. Marshalls in response to allegations of federal charges and “sealed” warrants resulting from a civil protest at a Forest Service building on September 21, 2012.

“It is obvious why these court documents were sealed, the Forest Service wanted to arrest and make an example out of us to deter further protests for protection of the Holy San Francisco Peaks.” stated Klee Benally a Dine’ (Navajo) activist. Benally has been advocating for Indigenous religious freedom and protection of the holy Peaks for more than 14 years, “This is a politically motivated attack that was clearly timed to send a message to anyone who cares about the Peaks from protesting Snowbowl snowmaking with treated sewage effluent.”

Benally declared to a crowd of supporters at the Marshall’s office, “The Forest Service lied in the Environmental Impact Statement, they lied in court, they are lying about these charges, and they are lying about their sacred sites policy. We are being arrested today because we are not afraid to stand up and speak the truth!”

Protect the Peaks supporters gather outside the Federal Courthouse.

The three Peaks activists were kept in shackles around their waists, hands and feet and caged for nearly 5 hours while waiting to appear before a judge. While in custody, plain clothed U.S. Forest Service agents attempted to individually interrogate the Peaks activists without lawyers present.

Forest Service law enforcement captain John Nelson was the only Forest Service representative in the courtroom. Nelson has a history of intimidating and harassing Peaks supporters and traditional practitioners engaged in prayer on the Peaks.

“It seems clear to me,” Benally stated, that the Forest Service is seeking to suppress any further possibility of us speaking the truth for religious freedom and protection of the holy San Francisco Peaks.”

The prosecutor repeatedly requested that the judge “ban” the activists from going on the San Francisco Peaks and to any Coconino Forest Service building as a condition of their release. During the arraignment, the federal prosecutor continually stated that he was concerned about the possibility of further protests.

Attorney Matthew Brown argued that Benally’s religious practice was directly connected to the San Francisco Peaks and restricting his access to the Holy Mountain would be akin to preventing him from going to church. The judge agreed not to ban Benally from the Peaks but cautioned him that if he broke any laws he would be immediately imprisoned until trial. Even a wrongful arrest on USFS lands would be grounds for imprisonment until trial.

The three Peaks supporters were released just after 2:30 p.m.. They re-joined the group of supporters and held a banner stating, “Protect Sacred Sites, Defend Human Rights.”

A status hearing for the Peaks activists will be held on December 27, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. at the Flagstaff Federal Courthouse. A date for a bench trial is expected to be set then.

The four protestors are facing multiple counts (Section 261.3a) of a misdemeanor charge for allegedly interfering with a Forest officer. The statute reads, “Threatening, resisting, intimidating, or interfering with any forest officer engaged in or on account of the performance of his official duties in the protection, improvement, or administration of the National Forest System is prohibited.”

“Not only are these federal charges absurd, they are an attack on freedom of expression,” stated Benally, “The fact that the USFS would bring these charges the same day they released their report on the protection of sacred sites demonstrates that they are not acting in good faith.”

“The final report on Sacred Sites repeatedly points directly at Coconino National Forest and Secretary Vilsack’s callous handling and subsequent approval of using treated sewage effluent to make snow at Arizona Snowbowl.” stated Rudy Preston, a citizen of Flagstaff. He continues his statement “it was the single most detrimental action to their ability to even be taken seriously while doing public outreach to create the report. I feel like the timing of these arrests had two goals in mind: the first was to ban effective activists from Snowbowl as the resort begins to make poop snow, and the second was to thumb their noses at the Sacred Sites report and say, ‘this is how we do it in the Coconino and we don’t care if you want to make good relations with Indigenous cultures.’ Even the Snowbowl Record of Decision clearly states ‘this project will likely have a disproportionately adverse effect on affected Native Americans (p.32)’ and additionally states that the no action alternative ‘is the environmentally preferable alternative because it would not have approved any of the physical, cultural or biological impacts that are anticipated under the implementation of Alternative 3 (snowmaking and expansion, p.33).’”

Peaks supporters have stated that they are undeterred from this attack on their freedom to express themselves and will continue their efforts to protect the holy San Francisco Peaks.

“The natural laws and the indigenous people were already here in a good relationship before the coming of the colonial society who draws law and boundaries.” stated Big Mountain resister Louise Benally who was outside the courthouse offering support, “However we Indigenous Peoples will always have ties with these lands, we will continue to live that way with nature and we will carry on. These man-made laws by the U.S. government will vanish soon.”

Previous News Release & Forest Service Report here:

More info:

News Release: Arizona Snowbowl Starts Making Fake Snow from Treated Sewage… and it’s Yellow

December 24, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012
Contact: Rudy Preston
Phone: 480-382-5288

Arizona Snowbowl Starts Making Fake Snow from Treated Sewage… and it’s Yellow
FLAGSTAFF, AZ (San Francisco Peaks) — After a decade of legal battles and opposition from environmental groups, concerned citizens, and Indigenous Nations, Arizona Snowbowl ski area has started making fake snow from Flagstaff’s treated sewage effluent.

Surprise… it’s yellow!

“My parents always told me not to eat yellow snow, this is absolutely disgusting,” said Katie Nelson, longtime resident of Northern Arizona. “ Will parents tell their kids it’s OK to play in it? I used to be a skier and snowboarder, but I am boycotting Snowbowl because they obviously don’t care about my health or the environment.” stated Nelson.

Snowbowl is set to be the only ski area in the world to make snow from 100% treated sewage effluent. This action has raised serious concerns from community and environmental groups due to potential risks to human health and the sensitive mountain ecosystem.

“Snowbowl is clearly disregarding public health by not fulfilling their requirement to have signs posted that the fake snow is made from treated sewage and that it must not be consumed. I checked the entire area where kids ski and learn to ski and I could not find any warning signs.” stated Rudy Preston, former board member of the Flagstaff Activist Network. “There were none posted on the childrens ski lifts either,” he continued.

Although Snowbowl manager JR Murray has stated that treated sewage would be “…cleaner than the snow falling out of the sky” the yellow colored snow clearly indicates that something is wrong.
State law mandates that it is illegal for anyone to consume snow made from treated sewage effluent. Ingestion pathways include the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and skin. Additionally, any “direct reuse” cannot even have the “potential for ingestion.” While Snowmaking is considered legal, the “direct reuse” of this treated sewage effluent is in fact “skiing” and ADEQ is ignoring their own laws when it allowed Snowbowl to make snow (Arizona Administrative Code: R-18-9-704).

“Despite the obvious health risks, you would have thought that respect for our Indigenous brothers and sisters would have been enough to stop this project years ago, treated sewage for snowmaking is an absolute affront to Indigenous Nations that revere the Peaks as holy and I for one choose to respect their wishes and will no longer ski at Arizona Snowbowl.” stated Rudy Preston.

Multiple protests and prayer gatherings have been held since Snowbowl opened last Thursday.

On November, 14, 2012 the Hopi Tribe filed a new lawsuit and for injunctive relief due to threats reclaimed water poses to an endangered plant that is found nowhere else in the world but on the Peaks. The Hopi Tribe requested an injunction to be placed on snowmaking activities until consultation was completed with both the US Fish and Wildlife and Department of Agriculture. The court has yet to issue a response.

The wastewater, which is treated to Flagstaff’s highest standard, has been proven to contain endocrine disrupting chemicals ( and now even anti-biotic resistant genes ( Since the Environmental Protection Agency has no regulations addressing these contaminants in treated sewage, the Forest Service, City of Flagstaff, AZ Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), and Snowbowl continue to call it “clean enough to drink” although it would be illegal to do so.

ADEQ regulations allow A+ treated sewer water to contain fecal matter in three out of seven daily samples (R18-11-303 2a). In addition, according to Northern Arizona University biologist Dr. Paul Torrence, the treated sewage effluent may also contain antibiotics such as triclosan and triclocarban, which break down into bio-accumulating cancerous dioxins when exposed to sunlight.

For nearly a decade every environmental concern brought to the courts by Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Flagstaff Activist Network have been swept under the rug on filing technicalities and no court has ruled on the issues raised about direct reuse and ingestion. In another lawsuit by the Hopi challenging the legality of the City’s contract with Snowbowl, Judge Joe Lodge ruled that the tribe waited too long for the court to make a ruling on clear ADEQ environmental law violations.

Download high resolution pictures here:

Photo credits: Katie Nelson and Rudy Preston