PHOENIX (AP) — A Native American dancer targeted by a gallery owner outside Phoenix is seeking hate crime accusations as he was filmed for Super Bowl week .
Gilbert Ortega Jr., owner of the Gilbert Ortega Native American Gallery, was charged with three misdemeanors of disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, according to Scottsdale Police.
Dancer and flutist Cody Blackbird, who filmed the men’s tirade, said his group didn’t feel safe and the conflict had ruined what should have been a week of celebration. .
“We performers now go to different entrances and parking lots in different places. This guy is known,” Blackbird said. “There was a 10-year-old girl who was forever stamped with ‘This is what happened when the Super Bowl came to town.'” ”
The group seeks the involvement of the FBI, the US Department of Justice, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
The showdown took place on Tuesday afternoon in Old Town Scottsdale. The big game and the Phoenix Open brought a large number of visitors to town. In front of the Native Art Market on Main Street he had ten dancers performing. ESPN filmed the group inside the store and had them pose outside by the Super Bowl sign.
That’s when Ortega started yelling at them, Blackbird said.
His store closed Friday and appears not to be open for business at the number listed. A message from the Associated Press, which listed multiple phone numbers and personal email addresses seeking comment, responded immediately did not respond.
Arizona does not have laws specific to hate crimes per se. Prejudice against the victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability may be used as aggravating circumstances if the motive is prejudice.
Disruptive behavior does not qualify as a hate crime under the FBI’s definition, according to Scottsdale officials. The FBI website describes hate crimes as “often violent crimes such as assault, murder, arson, vandalism, or threatening to commit such crimes.”
Blackbird, who is of Eastern Band Cherokee and Dakota descent, said some Navajo performers heard Ortega threaten them in their language, including violent and sexual innuendos. He also alleges that Ortega was charged with them and had to be physically restrained.
“It looks like it’s creating a really scary precedent, a dangerous precedent,” said Blackbird, who has a lawyer.
Meanwhile, the video went viral on social media, drawing unwanted attention to Scottsdale. Mayor David Ortega, who has nothing to do with the gallery owner, called his actions “reprehensible and inexcusable.”
“This person’s actions make people in our community sad and disgusted,” David Ortega said in a statement.
This business is associated with a larger group of stores known to sell Native American items in the Southwest. However, Ortega’s on the Plaza in New Mexico said that Gilbert Ortega Jr. is a distant relative and that the Santa Fe store is not affiliated with him.
“The family and employees of Ortega’s on the Plaza Santa Fe condemn all forms of racism and discrimination,” Janelle Ortega said in a statement Thursday. “Additionally, it is a great honor to feature and exhibit the work of Indigenous artists, and we are honored to support them in other important public and private endeavors.”
Blackbird said there were growing calls on social media for artists to boycott Gilbert Ortega Jr.’s business. He said racism exists even among those whose businesses depend on indigenous peoples.
“This is all the time in the Indian trader’s world,” says Blackbird. “They don’t care about people making or redesigning the items they sell.”