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Tohono O'odham Woman Found Not Guilty in Border Wall Protest

January 20, 2022 (1 min read)

Danyelle Khmera, Arizona Daily Star, Jan. 19, 2022

"A judge ruled that a Tohono O’odham woman is not guilty of criminal action in protesting border wall construction on her ancestral land, saying the prosecution imposed a substantial burden on the exercise of her religion. In issuing the verdict Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Bowman reversed her previous ruling that Amber Ortega couldn’t use the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as her defense. “This is our land, and our ways are not wrong,” said Ortega to a group of supporters and reporters outside the Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse in Tucson after the verdict. “We, today, again defended our culture, our ways, our songs, our locations, our mountains, our sacred sites. Today was a victory for our people.” Ortega was arrested and charged with the misdemeanors of interfering with agency function and violating a closure order, after refusing to leave a construction site on Sept. 9, 2020, in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, about 150 miles southwest of Tucson, where contractors were building more than 40 miles of 30-foot-tall steel border wall."