A forgotten fact of the 1970s in America is that, beyond the inflation troubles and economic stagnation that the era is known for, the deep political issues of the day led to a massive amount of political violence, including bombings and shootings.
Among those involved in the violence was Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who was convicted in 1977 of fatally shooting two FBI agents to death in 1975. He shot both at point-blank range during a shootout in June 1975 at Jumping Bull Ranch located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The shootout began when the two agents entered the reservation to arrest an individual on it wanted for burglary. That then led to a shootout between the two agents and several individuals on the reservation, including Peltier. The agents were first wounded by gunfire and then finished off by Peltier at point blank range.
After the shooting, Peltier fled to Canada but was extradited to the United States, where he was convicted of the murders. His conviction has withstood multiple appeals, including two appeals before the US Supreme Court.
Now, a collection of members of Congress and Senators, most of whom are Democrats, are demanding that President Biden grant clemency to Peltier. That effort is currently led by House Natural Resources Committee ranking member Raul Grijalva and has been joined by Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. One House Republican joined them in signing the letter.
They sent their demand in a letter sent ahead of Columbus Day, now called Indigenous People’s Day by some, writing, “As Members of Congress, we sign this letter with a deep commitment to the crucial role we play in upholding justice for all Americans – and to also hold our government accountable when we see a case of injustice, as demonstrated by the long incarceration of Leonard Peltier,” the lawmakers wrote to Biden.
Continuing, they characterize Peltier as an indigenous voice rather than a murderer, saying, “We stand with the Tribal Nations of the United States, Indigenous voices worldwide, and leading voices on human rights and criminal justice around the globe in support of Mr. Peltier’s release.”
The letter goes on to add, “Over the course of his incarceration, particularly in recent years, key figures involved in Mr. Peltier’s prosecution have stepped forward to underscore the constitutional violations and prosecutorial misconduct that took place during the investigation and trial that led to his conviction.”
The FBI Agents Association came out strongly against any clemency for Peltier, with FBIAA President Natalie Bara telling Fox News Digital, “The FBI Agents Association strongly opposed executive clemency for Leonard Peltier. Activists sympathetic to Peltier continue to mislead elected officials and the public in order to secure an early release for this unremorseful murderer of FBI Special Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams.”
Bara went on to vow to continue countering efforts to secure clemency for the murderer, saying, “FBIAA will continue to counter these efforts, and we stand with the entire FBI family in our determination to ensure that Peltier serves his full sentence.”
Featured image credit: By AFGE – #Handsoff Budget Rally, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=63359609
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