ARIZONA NEWS

Native American dancers want Arizona gallery owner held on hate crime

Feb 11, 2023, 3:00 PM

(Flickr Photo)...

(Flickr Photo)

(Flickr Photo)

PHOENIX — Native American dancers who were the target of a suburban Phoenix gallery owner’s racist rant as they were being filmed for Super Bowl week are pushing for hate crime charges.

Gilbert Ortega Jr., the owner of Gilbert Ortega Native American Galleries, has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct regarding the incident, Scottsdale police said.

Cody Blackbird, a dancer and flutist who filmed the man’s tirade, said his group doesn’t feel safe, and that the confrontation has ruined what should have been a celebratory week.

“Us performers are now going in different entrances and parking in different places. This man is known,” Blackbird said. “There’s a 10-year-old girl who was there. She’s forever imprinted with ‘This is what happened when the Super Bowl came to town.’”

The group is seeking the involvement of the FBI, U.S. Justice Department and Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

The confrontation happened Tuesday afternoon in Old Town Scottsdale, which has been seeing a high volume of visitors in town for the big game and the WM Phoenix Open. Ten dancers were performing in front of the Native Art Market on Main Street. ESPN was filming the group in the store and then had them pose outside by a Super Bowl sign.

That’s when Ortega started yelling at them, Blackbird said. In the video, Ortega can be seen mocking them and yelling “you (expletive) Indians” at one point.

His shop was closed Friday, and a listed number appears to not be in service. There was no immediate response to messages from The Associated Press left at multiple phone numbers and personal email addresses listed for him seeking comment.

In Arizona, there is no law specific to a hate crime itself. It can be used as an aggravating circumstance in the commission of a crime where the motive was bias against a victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

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Native American dancers want Arizona gallery owner held on hate crime