Warning: the information below is likely to make your blood boil.
A hate crime happened a few weeks ago in Fernley, Nevada that is just becoming known to the wider public. A family has lost its car, is bankrupt and cannot return to their home because of it.
You should know about it. When you do, you will want to take action. At the end, there is a change.org petition, information for press contacts, and a Facebook Page where you can find more information and express your solidarity. Please leave any other ideas you may have in the comments.
It all happened when Johnny, Lisa and Alyssa Bonty, and their son-in-law, all from the Reno Sparks Indian Colony, stopped at the Quick Stop to get some gas in Fernley NV on May 24th. The rest is below the fold.
According to Indian Country Today, this is what happened:
Johnny Bonta got out of the car to pump some gas when a carload full of skinheads pulled up alongside him. One of them got out of the car with a baseball bat and tried to pick a fight. Johnny told him he didn't want to fight and got back into the car. The family then drove off, with his son-in-law, Shane Murray, behind the wheel. But now the skinheads were in pursuit.
As the Bonta family was heading for the freeway ramp, the skinheads cut them off and jammed on the brakes, causing a crash. The three skinheads then all got out of their car with baseball bats, knives and a crowbar and attacked the family.
Here's how Lisa Bonfa described the vicious assault that followed:
“They all jumped out of the car with baseball bats, knives and a crowbar, and we knew they were going to hurt us,” said Lisa Bonta, in an interview from Washoe Medical Center, where she was in treatment for seizures she suffers.
...snip...[even though this happened at 1pm, nobody passing by would stop to help them]...
“I saw one of them hit my husband in the head with a bat, and the other one was trying to cut off his braid with a knife. Johnny was covered in blood and they just kept hitting him with a crow bar. They even tried to slit his throat,” she added.
“Jacob Cassell had my son-in-law on the ground in a chokehold and Shane was turning blue. My daughter was sobbing ‘they’re killing him’ and somehow she found the strength to hit Jacob in self-defense so he would release Shane.”
It was then, Lisa said, that Cassell turned his anger on her and her daughter, jumping on the hood of their car while swinging a baseball bat and cursing at them.
“I’m a 46 year-old woman with serious health problems, and I tried to defend myself, but he hit me across the lower back with his bat, calling us ‘niggers and river monsters,” said Lisa, who is Anglo. “He pointed at Alyssa and said he would rape her the next time he saw her in Fernley, where she lives.”
Johnny was knocked out by the bat, which had broken his nose and sinus cavities.
Turns out that Jacob Caswell's father is a police officer in town, and after they tired of assaulting the family, Caswell taunted them with that fact:
“You hear those cops coming? They’re not going to help you. My daddy is a cop in this town, and nothing is going to happen to me. You fucking niggers are going to jail.”
The Police Response
And sure enough, the police arrive and they DON'T TAKE ANY STATEMENTS FROM THE VICTIMS, JUST THE SKINHEADS!!!! They completely ignored the family until Lisa suffered a seizure.
This despite the fact that Johnny had a broken nose, nasal cavity, and could barely stand from being hit with the bat. Shane had a crushed elbow and a broken hand, among other things.
Three ambulances responded arrived on the scene and took Lisa, Murray and Alyssa for medical treatment. Lisa assumed Johnny had been taken in another ambulance, but he had not.Johnny was taken to jail and received NO medical attention for SIX days!!!!!!!
"Why?" you ask?
First they told Lisa that he had an outstanding $367 fine.
When the family arranged to pay it, they charged Johnny with battery with a deadly weapon, even though he had NO weapon.
The police wouldn't even let in an IHS doctor to treat Johnny in the jail. He only got medical attention after tribal police pursued his release, six days later.
The family also lost its car in all of this, and the police would NOT help them locate it, even though they were the ones who towed it. TWO WEEKS later they finally found it in a small impoundment yard, with its tires flat.
The family cannot afford to get the car out since Johnny was out of work due to his injuries. Family members now are walking to their doctors' appointments.
The Brag on Facebook
These morons always have to brag. They incriminate themselves, that is if anyone's listening (or, in this case, reading):
Two hours after attacking the Bontas, Josh Janiszewski of Fernley wrote, “Just laid the fists and boots to some 6′ 5” tongan dude. what you got on little guys?” at 3:13 p.m. When asked if they gave them hell, Josh responded. “Oh we did. That’s for sure!” at 3:48 p.m. “Amen,” said Jacob Cassell at 4:07 p.m.
Jacob’s mother Dee Cassell also commented, “So…who has blood? You guys need to come home to mom?” at 4:48 p.m. She later added that she gave them First Aid. “Better have ur asses at home after I did 1st aid. Don’t piss off women – they r worse than men!” she wrote at 8:00 p.m.
When asked if they got “some good licks” in, Josh said, “sent em to the hospital, they got fucked up man, thats for sure.”
Since this crime occurred, the family has found out that skinheads have attacked other Native American families in nearby towns as well, but nobody reports the crimes because they feel the police won't help them. AND THEY'RE RIGHT!!!!!
I was relieved to learn at the end of the article that the FBI is investigating this as a hate crime, and has taken statements from the family. The Justice Department should also be investigating the Fernley police department as well, but the article doesn't provide any information on that.
The family has contacted the ACLU and is trying to get a lawyer through them.
For more information:
UPDATE (Monday): Credit where credit is due. Brenda Norrell at Censored News, was the first one to cover this. We find out in that article that the attackers also attempted to slit Bonta's throat, which is attempted murder. Brenda also reported on the complicity of the Reno Gazette Journal, which copied police tactics of NOT INTERVIEWING THE VICTIMS!!!! (one thing you may want to do is write a complaint to the editor - just go to the link), and wrote about the Facebook bragging. You can also listen to an interview Brenda did with Lisa over at Blogtalk Radio here.
Tiokasin Ghosthorse also interviewed the family live on First Voices Indigenous Radio, broadcast over WBAI Thursdays at 9am EST, on July 9. The archives from that interview aren't on the website yet, but I'm expecting them to be.
What you can do to help.
If your blood hasn't boiled all away at this point there are a couple of things you can do to help.
UPDATE (Sun 5:15pm EST): It seems that there's just one ChipIn over at the Facebook page and it's just for $50 to someone we don't know. There is now a bank account set up to help the family. Here's the address you can send your checks to:
To help the Bontas:
There is an account set up at US Bank.
Acct. 153754887328 "The Bonta Family HATE CRIME Victim Fund"
1. There is a petition over at Change.org that you can sign. That's a no-brainer.
2. A Facebook page has been created to help the family. There is a link on it to donate, and you can also leave words of support (and please do). The FB page also shows that the story is getting some attention over at reddit, so if you can add to this, please do as well.
3. There's also a Facebook page aimed at Burning Man attendees - apparently Fernley is on the way to BM festivities, and people are pledging not to spend money there. Interesting action. Like it.
4. A woman named Karen over on the FB page also provided a list of contacts. I thought it was good, so here it is:
Anderson Cooper feedback form: http://edition.cnn.com/...
CNN iReoprt: http://ireport.cnn.com/
60 Minutes (CBS): http://www.cbsnews.com/...
Frontline (PBS): http://www.pbs.org/...
Associated Press, Reno Bureau:
Governor Sandoval: http://nv.gov/...
Petition calling for investigation: http://www.change.org/...
Lyon County Sheriff: http://www.lyon-county.org/...
5. Thanks for this suggestion: you can also report this to theSouthern Poverty Law Center for investigation. Morris Dees is a hero. If they pay attention to the story, things tend to change.
If you have any other ideas or suggestions, please leave them in the comments.
I also wanted to add that this kind of virulent racism and violent behavior goes on around reservations throughout the country, not just the southwest. I sat in on a tribal council meeting on the Standing Rock Reservation two summers ago, and was simply aghast at a group of former-UND students testifying about why they had dropped out. Tensions had been especially high during the mascot controversy (fueled by a racist donor who had given money for a sports arena only on condition that the name Fighting Sioux be retained) but it was common for the Lakota kids to be called "Prairie Niggers" (nope, no typos, that's what I wrote) and otherwise be harassed. Sometimes things like eggs would be thrown at them. This story should be part of a larger expose of the racist behavior of people around the reservations in this country. Prior to getting involved with these issues, I just was not aware at all how sickeningly bad it is.
UPDATE: in the conversation below, cacamp lets us know more of these terrible regionalisms:
Around here in South Dakota it's "prairie niggers" over in Minnesota it's "tree niggers" and down in Arizona it's "sand niggers". Fucking racists aren't too original are they?
This was in response to Northern Lights' comment:
In Alaska they call us snow niggers.
I am speechless
An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.