Hundreds of indigenous activists and allies rallied today in front of the White House demanding clemency for Leonard Peltier, who turned 79 years old today in prison, where he’s been serving a life sentence since 1976. Dozens were arrested performing civil disobedience.
Dallas Goldtooth, star of TV series Reservation Dogs, said that “We’re risking arrest to elevate the narrative that Leonard Peltier – who’s been locked up behind bars for 49 years – deserves to be free.”
“His trial – if it happened today – he would be found not guilty.”
As Indigenous Activists held the sidewalk in front of the White House, an enormous force of responding Secret Service and Parks Police shut down the street, pushing back the rest of the crowd.
Press were put into a designated area surrounded by police tape.
Officers then used a Long-range acoustic device (LRAD) to issue arrest warnings to the Leonard Peltier supporters. The activists remained in place, singing and drumming and holding signs reading “Rise up for Peltier.”
After three warnings, police began arresting the activists remaining in place on the White House sidewalk. They were escorted away without being handcuffed, and all complied.
“Free Peltier” chanted supporters from behind the newly erected barricades as the last of those on the White House sidewalk were arrested.
In total, 35 including Dallas Goldtooth were arrested.
Chauncey Peltier, son of Leonard Peltier, described that “my father has been wrongly incarcerated 48 years of my life… one of the biggest rights violation cases in history and one of the longest held political prisoners in the United States.”
“Everyone’s asking President Biden to please release Leonard Peltier. We’re asking for clemency for Leonard Peltier.”
He says in a previous parole board opportunity, one board member who supported parole was removed before the decision could be made.
“Please, call the White House, do what you can to support freedom for Leonard Peltier.”
Ahead of the civil disobedience, speakers in front of the White House made their demand clear: “We’re also here with purpose, to call out the President of the United States! The only person on the face of this planet that has the sole decision. It is a choice he has to make to release Leonard!” one explained.
“Release Leonard!” the crowd chanted.
Leonard Peltier’s lawyer, Kevin Sharp (a former federal judge) says that he swore an oath to the constitution in the military, as a lawyer, and as a judge. He says he was shocked by “the level of constitutional violations” in Peltier’s 1977 conviction.
Paul O’Brien, Executive Director at Amnesty International USA, said that “You know we have history on our side” for Leonard Peltier. “You have a quarter of a million Amnesty members on your side and we’re not gonna let this go!”
Holly Cook Macarro says she spoke with Leonard Peltier yesterday and he remains hopeful and in good spirits.
She read a statement by Peltier himself: “I’ve seen a reawakening of an ancient native pride that does my heart good. I may leave this place in a box. That is a cold truth. But I put my heart and soul into making our world a better place, and there is a lot of work left to do.”
“I would like to get out and join you in doing it.”