Zellner was injured when New York State Police broke up a demonstration staged by members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation. The demonstrators protested the bulldozing of land near the Shinnecock Reservation considered a sacred burial ground. Three members of the Shinnecock tribe were also arrested.
Zellner is a white Alabamian who participated in the civil rights movement *. Zellner described the injuries he sustained during the police beating at a talk he gave in Riverhead in February.
"When I moved from Alabama up to Southampton I moved from ‘Down South’ to ‘Up South’. They made me feel right at home. I was asked to come and try to talk to the state troopers. And I felt right at home when they threw me to the ground and ripped this elbow apart, crushed this leg in, knocked my jaw out of place and arrested the people from the reservation and myself for a simple protest against taking this sacred ground and bulldozing graves. Myself and one of the young women from the reservation were locked up and chained to a bench at the [police] barracks over on Flanders road. And that evening the Diallo decision came down in New York, where the police that shot Mr. Diallo 40 times were not charged with anything ... and those State Troopers who serve us came over with the meanest expressions and said 'You hear that? That means we can do anything we want to do' and they said to the member of the Reservation 'The next time we come to the Reservation we'll come with our carbines.You want the warpath, we'll bring the warpath to you' "
New York State appealed a federal court jury verdict awarding Zellner damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution, injury and denial of Civil rights. That appeal was denied.
The three Shinnecock arrested with Zellner also filed a lawsuit. One of the three, Becky Genia, accuses the state police of serving as body guards for the developers. Genia told us:
“The developers called the State Police basically to be their bodyguards… They began cursing us as soon as they got out of their cars…We ended up in handcuffs and slammed against people’s cars"In a February court hearing before Federal Judge Joseph Bianco, the state moved to throw out the Shinnecock’s suit. The judge denied the State's motion. A trial date is yet to be set. The attorney in both the Zellner case and the Shinnecock's case is Mr. Frederick Brewington of Hempstead.
Adapted from a news report filed for WPKN News, heard Monday-Friday at 6:30 pm on WPKM 88.7 Montauk and WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport. The report will also air on WPKN and WPKM on Saturday August 4 on a "News Review" between 2:30 and 3:00 pm.
* Bob Zellner’s forthcoming book “The Wrong Side of Murder Creek” will be published this fall by New South Books. Zellner was among a select group of Americans who were personally recruited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to serve in the civil rights movement.