Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ben Carnes: Peltier, justice and fearlessness

By Ben Carnes
Choctaw columnist
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His name is Leonard Peltier
As most everyone knows I have been a spokesperson for Peltier in the past. Recently, I was asked by David Hill to help with organizing some events.
Yesterday, David was returning to Oklahoma after visiting with Leonard at the prison he assigned to in Lewisburg, PA. He said that Leonard really needs help right now and that he wanted see if I could come up with some ideas to focus attention on the injustices of his case. So I may find myself involved again, and I am hoping that many others will renew their involvement with his case.
One way to do something right now is to join Peltier’s’ branches of support. You can sign up at
http://www.whoisleonardpeltier.info/branches.htm
And then network with your friends, campus organization, peace/social justice groups and so on.
Leonard’s 64th birthday will be on Sept. 12th, and September 6 will mark 32 and half years he will have been held captive for something the government c an no longer prove.
His case has generated support from the entertainment industry, religious/world leaders, 55 members of congress, numerous human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, and other respected national organizations. There has been over 25 million letters written on his behalf. U.S. Presidents have patronized his supporters and then ignored his appeal for justice.
Attempts to initiate congressional hearings have been blocked, and the judicial system seems to withhold justice they would have granted to others. After being released from prison after evidence of his innocence was presented, Geronimo Ji-jaga Pratt expressed astonishment that Peltier was still be held and with more proof and support on his side.
There have been several agents of the FBI who have said that it doesn’t matter if Peltier is guilty or not. He will never be freed. The FBI will make sure of that and to me that sounds like a threat. It was the FBI who threatened the life of Anna Mae Aquash if she didn’t cooperate in their investigations of who killed the agents. Standing Deer was also threatened with the loss of his life if he revealed the assassination plot in 1978. When Standing Deer was released and became involved with working for Peltier’s’ freedom, he was murdered in his Houston home in 2003.
In Aquash's case, it seems strange that al of a sudden the Justice Department and FBI are being cast as hero’s in solving the case. But from so many of the sources, it is highly questionable that Looking Cloud got a fair trial and that Graham will probably be expected to see anything better. So if Graham is convicted, then will the case be over for Indians? Will ‘justice’ be served on a plate of BS greedily devoured by anti-AIM rhetoric’s and the media?
Will former federal agents, David Price, William Wood, Norman Zigrossi, and Richard G. Held ever be tried for their roles in the deaths of AIM activists or the traditional people who supported them? Several women and children were murdered, some viciously, and the FBI did nothing to prosecute.
The federal agents will never stand a day in their court. It isn’t going to happen and never will. I say that because we have not secured a new trial or the release of Leonard Peltier.
With Grahams’ trial coming up on October 6th, 2008 in Rapid City, S.D., it is an opportune time to remind people about who the thugs were that perpetuated the Oglala Civil War of the 1970’s. The government has the capability and experience in fabricating their records and evidence. They gained experience from their mistakes.
When Bob Robideau and Dino Butler were found not guilty by reason of self-defense, Leonard would have been freed also, but he was in Canada and was tried before a different judge. The FBI learned after the Robideau and Butler case where their trial strategy failed and then shopped for a different Judge. The FBI created a climate of fear among the jurors and courtroom attendees, with SWAT teams covering their every move.
They made Leonard out to be a very dangerous man in the minds of the jurors and the judge refused to allow Leonard to present the same evidence and testimony as his co-defendants. With the court ruling against his defense, he had no defense at all. And years after his conviction, evidence surfaced that would have brought him a new trial. But the rules had changed a few months earlier on what standards would have resulted in a new trial through prosecutorial misconduct, such as with holding of evidence that would have proved his innocence.
This information and so much more I have spoken of since I became involved in 1991, and I’ve seen a groundswell of support rise and then fade away. There have been several changes in the leadership of the defense committee; others have misused his name for their own gain. The coordinator for the committee is his younger sister, Betty.
Through their website, you can find resources to educate yourself on Peltier’s’ case. If you are a student, than write a research paper on the very criminal justice system within the colonial occupying government called America, using Peltier as an example. Obtain handouts on the chronology of his case, and then purchase products to keep Leonard’s name and his case in the public mind.
We have held major benefit concerts, spoken at colleges/universities, held mass demonstrations; signed petitions and many other activities have been held around the world. What is it going to take to free him I really wished I had an answer for you, and especially Peltier.
I know that a movement doesn’t exist unless we are in a state of motion. We have to be doing something everywhere. Maybe we will need to have cross-country horse rides to publicize Peltier’s case, hold spiritual fasts, or other activities to draw people’s attention. I will see what I can come up with and if anything develops, we can get the word out
Maybe write letters and hold public demonstrations to bring an investigation into the FBI’s activities of the Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO) that targeted Martin Luther King, the Kennedy’s and so any activists. The FBI is responsible for the false imprisonment of so many people and the murders and assassinations of so many others. In the era of homeland security, we may receive a visit from the suits and dark glasses threatening to have us taken in because we might be homegrown radicals and violent terrorists. If we are terrorists, then we stand the risk of being detained alongside Al-Qaeda and other people who may or may not be innocent.
It could be something to fear, but I know there was many nameless people who stood with that same fear against the federal government and they called themselves the American Indian Movement. And we have one who is falsely imprisoned and his name is Leonard Peltier.
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Photo: Longest Walk northern route walks the prayer in Lewisburg, Penn., to the federal prison where Peltier is incarcerated. The walk and 24-hour vigil in June was for all Native prisoners.
Photo Brenda Norrell

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