Peltier, who has serious health problems, has been in jail more than 40 years, six of them in solitary confinement.
The frame-up was so blatant that even James Reynolds, one of the lead prosecutors who helped send Peltier to prison, has called for his release. The trial “was unusually troublesome” Reynolds now says. “It was a very thin case that likely would not be upheld by courts today.”
Peltier and other members of the American Indian Movement were at Pine Ridge to protect residents from a reign of terror, including beatings and murders, instituted by then tribal chief Dick Wilson. Reynolds admits that the FBI played a “role in the creation of dangerous conditions on Pine Ridge.”
Among those calling for Peltier’s release are the National Congress of American Indians, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the World Council of Churches, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and Pope Francis. The fight was given a boost by the mobilizations of Native Americans and others at Standing Rock that blocked the passage of the Dakota Access Pipeline across sacred land and a river near the reservation. More people than ever are learning about the case.
When the sentence of Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López was commuted Jan. 17 it showed that it is possible to fight and win. But victory never comes easy.
The freeing of López was not a gift from Obama, it was the result of a decades-long fight that actively involved tens of thousands of people around the world and won the support of hundreds of thousands more, especially among working people on the island and in the diaspora, an important component of the U.S. working class.
The Socialist Workers Party and its candidates are joining with others to build on this victory, to demand the Donald Trump administration free Peltier and others who are in prison on frame-up charges and disproportionately long sentences because of their political beliefs. We can take the fight to free Leonard to unions, churches and other organizations under the labor banner of “An injury to one is an injury to all.”
Keep up the fight! Free Leonard Peltier now!