Colin Kaepernick, the American football star whose “kneeling protest” sparked a national debate, has travelled to Alcatraz Island to join Native Americans protesting the “genocide” they say is represented by Thanksgiving Day.
The 30-year-old made a surprise visit to the site of the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary to join indigenous people who occupied the island off the coast of San Francisco between 1969 and 1971. Since then, there has been an annual sunrise gathering to highlight the deadly, destructive impact on indigenous people of the arrival in America of European colonisers more than 400 years ago.
The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback was seen on video receiving two eagle feathers from a Native American elder before delivering a brief speech at the UnThanksgiving Day event.
“I’m very humbled to share this space with all of you,” he said.
“Our fight is the same fight. We’re all fighting for our justice, for our freedom. And realising that we’re in this fight together makes us all the more powerful.”
The sports star has been at the centre of a furore since refusing last year to stand for the playing of the national anthem in order to protest the treatment of people of colour. His move followed the high-profile deaths in custody of a number of black suspects at the hands of police forces across the country.
While his actions have received widespread support, President Donald Trump attacked the move and used the phrase “son of a b***h” when talking about those involved.
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Morning Star Gali, one of the event’s organisers and a member of Pit River tribe, told The Independent they had no advance notice the sports start was even among the 4,500 people present on Thursday morning.
“I was the MC and it was still dark and we couldn’t see anything. Then one of my co-workers told me he was there,” she said. “I just said ‘we had a relative among us called Colin Kaepernick and I trust that as good relatives we’re not going to crowd him too much and give him some space’.”
She said the NFL star was set to leave but that one of the indigenous elders, Fred Short, wished to present him with two ceremonial feathers. After he had received them, the footballer picked up the microphone and delivered his address.
Colin Kaepernick joins Native Americans for UnThanksgiving Day protest on Alcatraz