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2007/05/16

Firewater Protests



The Navajo Nation is a dry place. Not only is it high desert on the edge of the Colorado plateau, but the sale of alcohol is prohibited throughout the reservation. Where you have poverty, you also have drinking. Alcohol is a major problem, and since the City of Gallup as well as McKinley County allow the sale of alcohol at the edge of the reservation, many people come into town to drink. This even earned Gallup notoriety when the news magazine show "60 Minutes" did a profile piece on the city and labeled it 'Drunktown, USA.'

In the ten years that I have been here in Gallup I have seen major improvements in the city's efforts to combat the problem. DWI checkpoints stop fewer and fewer drunk drivers and instead catch people with outstanding arrest warrants.

In the midst of all this, a gas station located halfway between Thoreau and Crownpoint on Highway 371 is selling alcohol. Area residents turned out today to protest the sale, holding a rally at the church located less than half a mile away. Personally, I am not clear on how the Chevron station can sell liquor. The area is checkerboard - where county and reservation land are interspersed, so perhaps the station is on county land. Yet when there are problems and people call the Sheriff's department they are told that the gas station is on tribal land.
Florence Silver, 70, stands along Hwy 371 on Wednesday as she participates in an anti-alcohol protest rally near Bethesda Church in Smith Lake, NM. Dozens of protesters showed up to voice their disapproval of the sale of alcohol at the Chevron Station along Hwy 371.

Community members marched along Hwy 371 to protest the sale of alcohol at the Chevron gasoline station in Smith Lake.

Stephanie Smith, of Church Rock, holds a sign declaring her opposition to the sale of alcohol on tribal land during an anti-alcohol rally along Hwy 371 in Smith Lake, NM.

A discarded beer bottle lays on the side of the road as protesters make their way from Thoreau to Smith Lake during an anti-alcohol rally

A line of vehicles follows protesters as they make their way toward Bethesda Church during an anti-alcohol rally along Hwy 371 in Smith Lake NM.
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