A Sag Harbor woman was arrested Wednesday night after she allegedly assaulted two village police officers following a rant against the Shinnecock Indian Nation during a screening of a documentary on the tribe.
Ruth Kalb, 79, was escorted out of Tutto Il Giorno in Sag Harbor, where organizers of the Hamptons International Film Festival were screening “Conscience Point,” a film focusing on the tribe’s efforts to preserve its ancestral land in Shinnecock Hills. Several people who attended the screening said Kalb — who is also known as Vered — began making disparaging remarks about the tribe during the ensuing panel discussion. The situation escalated, and police were called about 9:30 p.m.
“They were physically escorting her out as she was kicking and screaming, ‘No, no, no!’” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin McGuire. “She kicked an officer and punched another in the chest.”
The officers were not injured during the incident and Kalb was charged with second-degree harassment, resisting arrest and trespass, McGuire said. She was released and is expected to return to village justice court on Feb. 28.
Representatives of the film festival did not comment on the incident.
Kalb, owner of the former Vered Gallery, is no stranger to controversy in the village and had battled Sag Harbor for years over a 16-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture of a woman’s legs outside her home. She could not be reached Thursday for comment.
Tribal members and others in the audience said her remarks accused the tribe of playing up its role as victims and that she said tribal members should get jobs to pull themselves out of poverty. At one point she referred to herself as “the queen of white privilege,” said tribal member and attorney Tela Troge.
“She was really condescending and putting us down,” said Rebecca Hill-Genia, the tribe’s grave protection warrior, a panel member and the film’s star. “I said everything we do is out of love. Love for our ancestors, love for the earth and sky. Obviously you don't understand.”
Hill-Genia said others then rallied around the tribe.
“There were 100 people in that room and 99 people were very supportive and focused,” she said.
Michael Daly, a Sag Harbor real estate agent and tribe advocate, said the incident highlights the fact that discrimination against the tribe persists.
“The only thing that is going to make a difference is if their allies stand up and support them,” said Daly, who attended the screening.
The tribe continues its preservation efforts and had been protesting outside a Shinnecock Hills construction site in its historic burial area since December. Southampton Town was not able to purchase and preserve that parcel but is in the process of acquiring 3.3 acres of nearby land. In 2018, the town purchased and preserved a site on nearby Hawthorne Road where the remains of a likely ancestor were discovered during the building of a home.
Tribal members are now working with town officials to create a graves protection act, and Troge said she is optimistic about the effort.
“We had a really great meeting [with town officials],” Troge said. “It was a perfect day until all of that [Vered's outburst] happened.”