O’odham and Supporters Protest Meeting of South Mountain Freeway Bidders

Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
September 29th, 2015
Contact: 520-350-0603
akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com

On the morning of September 29th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) held a Pre-Bid meeting for the proposed South Mountain Freeway extension of the Loop 202 at the Mesa Convention Center. The meeting started at 9:00am and approximately 15 O’odham and other supporters were protesting outside.

NoSouthMtnFreewayCop
This pre-bid meeting was a part of the process in a Public Private Partnership (P3) deal for the South Mountain Freeway. P3’s are a business deal between a public entity (ADOT) and private entity (corporations). The state cannot afford to build the freeway on its own so P3 deals are the state’s solution to that. There are three groups who might get the P3 contract; South Mountain Mobility Group, South Mountain Development Group, and Connect 202 Partners. The winning bid would result in one of these groups receiving some federal funding, but the private companies will take on the rest of the cost which is roughly 2.3 billion dollars. The P3 gives the private corporations some responsibility on design and maintenance, as well as over time the state pays them back with interest

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The protesters gathered in the front entrance holding signs, chanting, and singing O’odham songs. The group tried to enter the building but Mesa police officers and private security block the entrance. The protest forced attendees of today’s pre-bid meeting to exit out of another door, even as the protest continued to march, trying to find other ways into the building.“Our actions and presence today is in an example to the purposed corporations that it is wrong to destroy our sacred places,” said Deran Martinez, 25 from the Village of Vah KI. “It’s huge part of our culture (South Mountain) and we won’t go silently.”
Since this was a pre-bid meeting it’s more than likely there will be another in the coming months as ADOT’s construction date comes closer, which is currently scheduled for March 2016. It’s also possible the construction date could be pushed back again because of the lawsuits from PARC (Protecting Arizona’s Resources and Children) and the Gila River Indian Community. Akimel O’odham Youth Collective will continue to provide updates on the future meetings and events of ADOT and P3 bidders, we are confident there will be another chance to target ADOT and these development groups. We will continue to oppose the construction of the South Mountain Freeway extension.

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective

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Hardcore Punk Bands Donate to A.O.Y.C

Gay Kiss at 51 West

Gay Kiss at 51 West

Los Crudos at 51 West

Los Crudos at 51 West

Legendary Chicago Hardcore Punk band Los Crudos and hardcore punk locals Gay Kiss played a late night after show at 51 West Coffee in Tempe, Az – which coincided with the King of the Monsters 20th anniversary. Los Crudos are a very conscience band singing on many issues that many of us can relate to because they are happening in our own communities. Martin Sorrondeguy, vocalist for Los Crudos said “The money that you paid tonight, we are not taking a dollar. It’s all going to local S**t to benefit any charities/issues that are going on here in Arizona – stuff just so you know. This is just an idea that got brought up last night and I just thought we can’t leave here without leaving something behind”. So they donated the funds made to A.O.Y.C. We are extremely thankful! We struggle to keep up with supplies for screen printing, banner making, zines, spaces, helping provide food/water for gatherings, so this money is very much appreciated!

We give very special thanks to Los Crudos, Gay Kiss and 51 West Coffee for putting on an amazing night.

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Anti-Freeway Protestors Crash Loop 202 Networking Event!

June 18, 2015
Contact: E-mail: akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com

On June 17th, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) hosted a Loop 202 networking event at Rio Salado College. Representatives from the three private consortia bidding to receive the contract to build the 202 extension attended the event. The three construction groups are South Mountain Mobility Group, Connect 202 Partners and South Mountain Development Group.

Rallying In front of building.

Rallying In front of building.

The protest was led by O’otham from the Gila River Indian Community and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. About twenty more 202 opponents from other Indigenous tribes and the Phoenix area supported the O’otham. Earlier that morning, Rio Salado College was chalked with anti-202 and anti-ADOT slogans, so that when the main group of protestors arrived, police were expecting a protest. The police were inside the building with ADOT and the three construction groups, so at the start of the rally, protestors stood outside and chanted “No Desecration for Transportation!” One member of the group, Alicia Morales, a Gila River Indian Community member, was allowed to go inside where the private contractors were meeting. Alicia stated that she was then told by police that she could not go inside the building, because she was carrying an anti-202 banner. Morales was able to get inside with the banner and stated that from inside the building, “I could hear everybody outside and everybody in the meeting could hear the chants as well.”

 
During this time, protestors opened the doors of the building to ensure that ADOT and the construction companies could hear the protest outside. Police then pulled the door handles out of their hands and forced the doors shut. The group countered by entering the building through another door. Traditional O’odham singers began to sing inside while others round danced around them. Other protestors held up banners around the traditional singers and dancers to not allow police through to stop the singers. After the songs were over, the group attempted to enter the conference room where the three groups were presenting their project overviews, and a panel discussion about 202 construction was taking place. However, the doors were locked from the inside. Throughout the morning’s protest, police and Rio Salado College security repeatedly told the protestors to leave or quite down. This did not happen until the ADOT event ended.

Inside Rio Salado College.

Inside Rio Salado College.

In an interview with KJZZ 91.5 FM, the local National Public Radio affiliate, Andrew Pedro, a Gila River Indian Community member, explained the connections between threats to Indigenous sacred sites around Arizona and the Sun Corridor, Arizona’s portion of the CANAMEX Corridor. The CANAMEX Corridor is a NAFTA superhighway designed to help facilitate international trade for multinational energy extraction corporations-the mining, coal, and oil industries in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Pedro also said that the protest carried the message to ADOT and the three groups hoping to build the 202 that O’otham sacred land is not up for negotiation, and that Indigenous people will defend their lands, to stop their destruction in the name of progress and convenience. You can hear a short portion of the interview here

 
Fair Morago, 35, from Sacaton on the Gila River Indian Community said, “With the Loop 202, our ways of life are threatened. I am a mother, and I want my children to know where they come from. I felt the presence of our people with us as we sang. I am not afraid to fight and protect that feeling, for myself and my children.” Near the end of ADOT’s networking event, the protestors found an entrance to the conference room. They went into the conference room, with about half of the protestors going in the meeting with the traditional singers. Police rushed to block the doors after the first half got into the conference room, and would not let anyone else into the room. Before leaving the conference room, the protestors inside and outside the conference room chanted “No 202” together as the ADOT networking event ended.

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-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective & Gila River Against Loop 202

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It’s time to turn up the heat! FHWA In Favor of Building Freeway!

March 12, 2015

On March 5th, 2015, the Federal Highways Administration (FHWA) released their Record of Decision (ROD) in favor of building the South Mountain Freeway. The ROD is a document that gives the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) the approval to begin acquiring right of ways and to begin construction of the 22-mile-long freeway that blasts through three ridges of Moadak Do’ag (South Mountain). Moadak Do’ag is sacred to all O’otham tribes and holds cultural significance to eighteen other tribes.

 
This project has been opposed by members of the Gila River Indian Community since the 1980s. There are numerous harmful impacts of freeway construction which include destroying the prehistoric villages of Villa Buena and Pueblo del Alamo, the destruction of threatened/endangered animal habitats, and the destruction of plants that are central to traditional O’otham culture. Environmental impact studies of the 202 freeway also state that the habitat for wild horses in Gila River would be irreversibly lost if the freeway is built, and that no alternative habitats for the wild horses exist. One of the Gila River Indian Community’s entertainment destinations is named after the wild horses that the freeway would destroy if it is built. The path of the approved design also would destroy many groundwater wells, with no replacement wells planned for by ADOT. It is for these reasons and many more that in 2012, the Sierra Club named the South Mountain freeway one of the worst transportation projects in the United States.

 
ADOT states that the project will cost taxpayers $1.9 billion to complete, and that it would take four years to finish if construction begins in 2015, with an opening date in 2019 or 2020. The project is partially funded by tax revenues from a Maricopa County transportation tax, and those tax revenues have declined following a nationwide trend of less vehicle miles being driven. Because the state does not have the finances to start or complete the freeway, ADOT was forced to use a P3, or Public – Private Partnership to plan the freeway. A P3 is a business deal between the public sector and corporations who take on responsibility to design, build, maintain, and/or finance a project, so that completing the project is more attainable. The corporations benefit from receiving federal contracts, tax breaks, low interest loans, and state tax revenues in later years. By using a P3, ADOT hopes to build the freeway without having enough money to do so on its own.

GRIC's response to the RoD

GRIC’s response to the RoD

The FHWA’s decision to green light the project is a middle finger to tribal sovereignty, Indigenous religious freedom, and civil rights. There are three tribal resolutions in the Gila River Indian Community’s with wording about the Community’s duty to protect and preserve their sacred lands. Gila River voters also had a February 2012 vote in which the Community voted in favor of the No Build option for the 202. However, GRIC is never mentioned as a stakeholder in FHWA’s Record of Decision, although 202 impact studies clearly state that members of the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), the first people of the land, will no longer have access to a particular area of the mountain range that has been held sacred for thousands of years.

 
GRIC released a response to the ROD, stating their disappointment in ADOT and FHWA by not choosing the No Action Alternative to avoid irreversible effects to traditional cultural property. GRIC’s first press release incorrectly referred to the ROD as the “Record of Discussion”, not as the “Record of Decision”. This was quickly corrected, but it showed that tribal leadership is not familiar with basic terms regarding this phase of ADOT’s freeway planning. The GRIC statement stated that the Community will be further evaluating the ROD in the coming weeks to evaluate the appropriate action. Many GRIC members are hopeful that the tribe will formally litigate against ADOT and FHWA, citing the tribal resolutions to protect traditional cultural properties. Leadership from Komadk, the area of GRIC most affected by the freeway design, are expected to be especially vocal in the fight against the freeway, as Komadk has a tribal council seat up for grabs in June.
It appears that ADOT may already be clearing lands along the freeway route. Waylon Pahona, a former Gila River Health Care employee who created a Moadak Do’ag running trail with others, recently returned to the trail to find that it is almost gone. The trail has been barricaded and cleared of cacti, and Pahona states, “I will never forget the memories we created by having people run the trails to be healthy. I will never forget my past and I will never forget that you are greedy people.” GRIC members are also reporting that cacti and medicinal plants are already being cleared out with heavy equipment. It is not known who is grading the land, installing barricades, and removing cacti of up to 3000 pounds, but it is not any GRIC department.

PahonaTrail
This battle will be fought on all fronts. FHWA may have approved ADOT’s freeway design, but the release of that decision means that ADOT and FHWA are now vulnerable to lawsuits. There will be litigation against ADOT and FHWA, hopefully coming from the tribes impacted by the freeway design. With tribal elections in June, GRIC members should expect all candidates to publicly state their stance on the 202, as well as any plans to stop construction from beginning. This issue has been in our Community for over thirty years, and for too long, many of us have been silent about it, or have not gotten informed about the harmful impacts to our families. With litigation against ADOT, GRIC tribal Council upholding resolutions, and the people united to protect the land, this freeway will never be built. Not one bulldozer tearing up our Creator’s home.

 
If you haven’t actively helped 202 resistance, now is the time. We need people to flyer and table at Community events. We need to influence tribal elections so that ineffective leadership, the leadership that has allowed ADOT to get this far, is voted out. We need prayer runs to help us heal and to honor the land. We need children and elders to share their stories about the wild horses and the land ADOT wants to destroy. We need families to discuss the freeway in their homes. We need to post those tribal resolutions to inspire others to take action. Lawsuits will come, but there still needs to be a presence outside of them, from the people.

 
For additional project information, or to view the Record of Decision, visit azdot.gov/SouthMountainFreeway , call 602.712.7006 or email projects@azdot.gov.

 
For any questions contact:
Andrew Pedro (520) 350-0603
Linda Paloma Allen (480) 458-8329

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective & Gila River Against Loop 202

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ADOT IS RACIST! O’odham Resistance Against the Loop 202!

November 15th, 2014
Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
Contact: Akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com

On Saturday November 15th, 2014, the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) came to the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) to hold a public forum regarding the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway. About 25 people attended to show their resistance to the freeway. Moadak Do’ag, also known as the South Mountains, is a sacred place for all O’odham people. Eighteen other tribes also have cultural affinities to the South Mountain range, although ADOT did not consult directly with those eighteen other tribes listed in the FEIS. The Gila River Indian Community has a history of opposition to the proposed freeway dating back to the late 1980s, yet ADOT continues to plan freeway construction through Moadak Do’ag. GRIC’s tribal council has passed three resolutions against the freeway and countless actions have been taken by community members over the decades.

Runners

Runners

The morning of November 15th started off with a prayer run beginning from part of the South Mountain range that ADOT plans to blow up for freeway construction. The prayer run went throughout District Six of the Gila River Indian Community, which is the part of GRIC that would be most harmed by the proposed freeway. The prayer run concluded at a community gathering place, the District 6 ballpark. The roughly 5 mile run had runners from age 10 to 50 years old, and included runners from the other tribes that are listed in the FEIS. The runners were met with more supporters at the District Six ballpark. The group then marched down 51st Avenue to the Komatke Boys and Girls Club where the ADOT forum was held. Marchers held signs and banners reading “ADOT IS RACIST – No More Freeways On O’odham Land”, “Save the Mountain”, “We Love Clean Air”, and several others.

The group rallied in front of the Boys and Girls Club before going inside to the forum. In prior rallies against the 202, police and security have stopped GRIC members from displaying signs and banners but on Saturday, the group marched inside still holding their signs and banners. ADOT presented a 15 minute video showing simulations of what the proposed freeway would look like. This prepared video was most of their presentation. ADOT representatives did not take questions from the GRIC members at the forum. People were then invited to comment to the FEIS. Mike Tashquinth, an elder from Komadk in District Six who has been a vocal opponent of the freeway for several years, spoke. Soon after Tashquinth’s words, many people attending the forum began to chant “No Build! No Build!”

Inside the building at the forum

Inside the building at the forum

Rolinda Perez, another GRIC member opposed to the freeway extension, said, “My three boys and I all had asthma from the years our family lived in Phoenix. We had to be on medication, inhalers and even breathing machines every 4 hours. When we moved to District Six eleven years ago, some of us got better and were taken off asthma medication. Now I have an 8 year old daughter and am worried about her health if the freeway gets built.” Air quality is a big issue in Gila River because the pollution from the freeway would stay in the valley located in between the Estrella Mountain and South Mountain ranges. District Six of the GRIC is in that valley between the mountain ranges, and air quality experts have projected that airborne pollutants would be greatly concentrated in that valley.

Marching down 51st ave

Marching down 51st ave

Other harmful effects include the total destruction of any habitat for the wild horses that roam in parts of Gila River Indian Community, which the Community has identified as a resource to be protected. Section 4-128 of the FEIS states: “Although wild horses and burros are present on Community land and may occur adjacent to the E1 Alternative, field observations concluded no suitable habitat for wild horses or burros is or would be available within the action alternatives.” There are 45 species of plants and animals that have protected status in Arizona, and which also have habitats that would be destroyed if ADOT builds any alignment of the proposed freeway extension. Most notably, these include the following threatened species: Sonoran desert Tortoise, Tucson shovels nosed snake, Yuma clapper rail, and yellow-billed cuckoo. In addition, the FEIS states that known nesting sites and foraging sites of the American bald eagle and golden eagle would be destroyed if the freeway is built.

Gila River Indian Community members opposed to the freeway also held a strong stance that ADOT is racist, and that their freeway planning of the proposed project has also been racist. In their FEIS, ADOT cites municipal resolutions from Litchfield Park, Tolleson, Avondale, Gila Bend, Laveen, and Phoenix as the basis of potential placements of the proposed freeway, while also completely ignoring the three GRIC resolutions to protect sacred sites, as well as a February 2012 vote in which the Community voted in favor of the No Build option for the 202 extension. Many Community members also point out the environmental racism of ADOT pushing for a freeway to be built over sites sacred to the O’odham people and eighteen other tribes.

The four people in front are from ADOT

The four people in front are from ADOT

The FEIS is one of the last steps ADOT needs to take before they start construction, which they plan for in 2015. After the FEIS comment period ends, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will make a Record of Decision ( ROD). The ROD is the official document in which the federal government states whether or not ADOT can build the freeway. However, many GRIC members understand that the release of the ROD is just another step in the long process of resisting the freeway. GRIC members at the forum also demanded that the GRIC tribal council litigate against the freeway, citing several federal laws regarding protection of the wild horses, protection of sacred lands, protection of religious freedom, and their civil rights as minorities. Monique Rodriguez, a Community member from the village of Vahki, said at the forum, “Even if the freeway continues with its process, we will need to be brave. Come join us and stand for what’s right.” Many people spoke but the message was clear. “We will stop this freeway by any means necessary,” said Andrew Pedro, 20, from Sacaton.

We encourage others to take action against the freeway and to submit a comment to ADOT against the freeway.

E-mail: projects@azdot.gov
Mail: Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway Study
Arizona Department of transportation
1655 W. Jackson St. MD 126F
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Online: AZDOT.gov/SouthMountainFreeway
Phone: 602-712-7006

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No desecration for transportation: Supporters join AOYC in protest of ADOT,MAG

We the Akimel O’odham Youth Collective were a part of this action but were in collaboration with others from the phoenix area.
Contact:
Andrew Pedro: apedro7556@gmail.com
Alex Soto: hiphopisresistance@gmail.com

On Wednesday August 27, a group of 20 people from the Gila River Indian Community and Phoenix area gathered to protest the South Mountain Loop 202 freeway proposed by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT), and their decision to open the South Mountain Freeway to Public-Private-Partnership (P3) proposals. A P3 is a business deal between the public sector and a company or companies who take on some combination of design, build, maintain, and finance that makes the project more attainable by allowing the $1.8 billion freeway to be built without ADOT coming up with the funds. The companies benefit from tax-breaks, low-interest loans, and state tax dollars years down the line.
Freeway resistors marched and rallied outside and inside the Maricopa Associations of Governments (MAG) Regional Council and ADOT Priority Planning Committee meetings since both have direct influence in the planning and approval of the freeway project. Resistors held banners that read “Defend the Sacred: Save South Mountain” and “Caution Biohazard: Loop 202”. Members from the Akimel O’odham Youth Collective were in attendance and shared the negative health, environmental and cultural implications that the freeway would bring if built.

Marching down 1st ave. to MAG building

Marching down 1st ave. to the MAG building

Demonstrators who spoke at the meeting specifically addressed the inherent racism of ADOT’s decision to double down on the construction of the proposed freeway even after Gila River Indian Community members voted for a “no build” option in an official vote. ADOT’s disregard for the objections of Akimel O’odham people from the Gila River Indian Community, and their democratic process, shows that ADOT is committed to lining developers and construction companies’ pockets, not respecting the decision making of the original inhabitants of this region.

At the MAG Building

Rallying outside the MAG Building

Police were following the group as we left the MAG building. Also three other cops in marked in marked cars.

Two undercover cops were following the group as we left the MAG building. Also three other cops in marked cars were also following us.

“Gila River has said no three times. As recently as 2012 the Gila River Indian Community voted for the No Build option because Moadak (South Mountain) is a sacred site. But MAG and ADOT are still pushing for this freeway with P3’s, which totally undermines tribal sovereignty,” said Andrew Pedro of Sacaton. “No means No.”

With the water shortage cited as one reason, a speaker stated, “We do not need more expansion, especially in the form of new roads, and especially not for the purpose of facilitating international trade freight traffic.”

At the ADOT building

At the ADOT building

ADOT’s announcement to open up the South Mountain freeway projects to P3 proposals comes before the expected release of the final environmental draft statement (FEIS) this fall. Today’s demonstration is just one of many that both Gila River Indian Community members and Phoenix area residents have held in opposition to the proposed Loop 202 freeway in that past six years.
Multiple speakers stated that if ADOT insists on building the road, freeway resisters will not make it easy for them.
“We are here to show you (ADOT) that we’re not going to make it easy. If it takes being a body in the way of a tractor, so be it”.

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No Freeway on Gila River!

July 6th, 2013
Akimel O’odham Youth Collective
E-mail: akimeloodhamyc@gmail.com
Phone: 520-510-3407
http://www.AOYCBlog.wordpress.com

On Wednesday July 3rd, 2013 the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) Council held their first regular meeting of the month. The investigation into the Pangea Corporation’s Landowner initiative was on the agenda, specifically the exclusion of signatures deemed by a GRIC police investigation to be fraudulently gained. The Landowner initiative’s purpose, if passed by GRIC Council, would have rescinded the February 2012 GRIC vote that resulted in a “No Build” victory regarding the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway extension. The Landowner initiative would then force another GRIC vote, this time with the wording on the GRIC ballot having just two options for the freeway: either Yes or No, with no option for the No Build alternative.

In May 2013, a special GRIC council meeting was called to hear the findings of the GRIC police investigation. At this meeting, the GRIC police department revealed that evidence of fraud and deception had been found in the methods that Pangea used to gather signatures. This is a direct violation of the Gila River Indian Community Code, which states that “a person commits obtaining a signature by deception if, with intent to defraud, he obtains the signature of another person to a written instrument by knowingly misrepresenting or omitting any fact material to the instrument or transaction.” As long as the Pangea Corporation in collaboration with the GRIC Landowners had been gathering signatures, there had been anecdotal evidence within Gila River that Pangea employees were going door to door and telling GRIC members that they were gathering signatures for a “No Freeway” petition.

Nathaniel Percharo, a spokesperson for the GRIC Landowners, admitted to knowing that there were types of fraud going on while gathering the signatures. After investigating those allegations of fraud and deception, at the May 2013 council meeting, tribal police stated that there was evidence of fraud. When they contacted individuals whose name was on the petition, some claimed they never signed it. When the petition first went through the tribal elections program they excluded 750 of the 1509 signatures, nearly two-thirds of the signatures on the entire petition. Instead of dropping the initiative then, GRIC council moved to have the initiative go back through the verification process with the Tribal Elections Program to see if there were enough valid signatures remaining to move forward with the initiative. Then the initiative would then come to the first regular meeting of July to hear the findings.

On the day of the July 3 council meeting, there was no sign of Pangea’s founders or any landowners, besides Nathaniel Percharo and his wife. This was very unusual, as in the past on days when Pangea had an item on the council agenda, the council chambers would be full of landowners that the Pangea Corporation bused in on rented luxury buses. Pangea spokespersons, Joseph Perez and Christi Perez, were also not present at this council meeting, on the day the fate of their corporation’s initiative would be decided.
Before the presenters could speak, council member Jennifer Allison made two motions. The first was to accept the findings of the tribal police and to exclude 176 more signatures from Pangea’s petition, which are believed to be forged. Of the 1509 signatures turned in by the Pangea Corporation and the GRIC Landowners group, more than half were found to be gained by using fraud and or deception. With the first 750 signatures excluded and then an additional 176 excluded all together 926 were found to be invalid. This put the number of valid signatures under the 643 needed to move forward.

The second motion from council resulted in no longer proceeding with the Landowner initiative to force another vote on the issue of the Loop 202 being placed on Gila River tribal lands. This means the February 2012 No Build vote still stands as the community’s stance. There will be no on-reservation alignment for the proposed South Mountain Loop 202 Freeway extension.

It remains to be seen if Pangea employees and members of the GRIC Landowners group will face criminal penalties, as is written in Title 5, Chapter 6, Section 5.602 (B) of the the Gila River Indian Community Code, which states that “the penalty for obtaining a signature by deception shall be imprisonment for a period not to exceed 180 days, or a fine not to exceed $500.00, or both.” If criminal penalties are assessed for each individual count of deception, Percharo and Perez could owe damages to the Gila River Indian Community of over $400,000 ($500 for each of the roughly 800 signatures removed) or jail time of up to 144,000 days, or 394 years.

-Akimel O’odham Youth Collective & Gila River Against Loop 202

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