Charges against trespassers droppedPublished 1:46pm Thursday, June 20, 2013
Criminal trespassing charges against four men who made a protest march on the construction site of Wind Creek Wetumpka Casino were dropped
The fourth man, so-called
“Muscogee Warrior” Wayland Gray, still faces an Aug. 29 trial on another misdemeanor charge.
Gray, Michael Deo, Mike Harjo and an Alabama man named George Mead, who referred to himself as “Maggot,” will only have to pay court costs on the criminal trespass charges incurred when they entered the Poarch Creek Indian property in January with a stated intent to pray for their ancestors interred there.
They consider the land around the quickly-rising casino and hotel sacred ground, and refer to it as Hickory Ground, the name it was given by the Creek ancestors of both the Poarch Creek and Muscogee nations.
Property management denied them entry, stating that it would be unsafe for the men to enter the active construction zone.
The next day, the four men approached the casino and were stopped by security and subsequently arrested. In addition to the trespassing charges, Gray was arrested for making a terrorist threat, but an Elmore County grand jury did not return an indictment on that charge.
“These charges are a smokescreen to divert attention away from the desecration of Hickory Ground,” Gray said. “The issue is respect for ancestors, and the precedent this case sets for all Native people trying to protect sacred land and burials,”
More than 40 men, women and children rode a chartered bus from Oklahoma to witness the brief hearing. There was no room for them in the courtroom, however, as Gray, Harjo, Deo and Mead’s cases were heard by Judge Glenn Goggans among the regular docket of traffic court, drug arrests and other business.
“These men notified the authorities they were coming,” Gray’s attorney, former AG Bill Baxley, said. “They were trying to exercise their freedom of religion, their civil right of religion. And they wanted to pay their respects to their ancestors.”