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Justice Department announces lawsuit against Grand Gateway Hotel owners

Protestors gather outside of Grand Gateway Hotel. The DOJ has announced a lawsuit against the hotel and lounge owners.
Richard Two Bulls
Protestors gather outside of Grand Gateway Hotel in March. The DOJ has announced a lawsuit against the hotel and lounge owners.

The US Department of Justice Department is suing the owners of a Rapid City, South Dakota hotel for saying on social media and elsewhere that it would not serve Native Americans.

The DOJ says the owners’ policies and practices violate the civil rights act.

In March, an owner of the Grand Gateway Hotel and Cheers Sports Lounge posted on Facebook that Natives were no longer allowed at the hotel and bar following an overnight shooting in their building. Days after, Native Americans tried booking rooms at the hotel twice and were allegedly denied service.

At the time, the Facebook post by owner Connie Uhre drew condemnation from the Rapid City mayor and led to days of protest outside the building.

Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the DOJ announced the lawsuit Wednesday.

“Policies that prohibit Native Americans from accessing public places are patently offensive, racially discriminatory and have no place in our society today,” she said.

The indigenous rights organization NDN Collective say they filed an initial lawsuit against the hotel for denial of service.

“If it wasn’t for us marching in the streets and if it wasn’t for us speaking truth to power. If it wasn’t for us having the courage to walk into Grand Gateway and get denied. If it wasn’t for the courage of us filing a lawsuit, the Department of Justice wouldn’t be doing this today,” said Nick Tilsen, CEO of NDN collective.

Tilsen calls the move by the Justice Department significant. However, he says it’s up to the community to tackle the issue of racism in Rapid City.

Defendants Nick and Connie Uhre did not respond to requests for comment.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.
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