(Article changed on May 27, 2013 at 12:07)
One of America's most tragic figures, Leonard Peltier, who unjustly remains behind bars after 37 years for a crime he most certainly did not commit, was the inspiration for a peaceful march Saturday in Tacoma, Washington. Photographer Damien Conway described the event in one word, 'powerful'.
'Constitutional rights taken from one...are rights taken away from all'
(Image by Damien Conway) Permission Details DMCA
'Constitutional rights taken from one...are rights taken away from all' by Damien Conway
Sombre but resolute, the faces of the protesters betrayed the deep emotion this case engenders, as the man who is considered to be a Native American 'political prisoner' by Amnesty International still waits for justice to be served in the land his ancestors have inhabited for thousands of years.
"I think I can explain beyond serious doubt, that Leonard Peltier has committed no crime whatsoever," said former US Attourney General Ramsey Clark. "But that if he had been guilty of firing a gun that killed an FBI Agent, it was in defense of not just his people but the integrity of humanity from domination and exploitation." AlJazeera
The incarceration of Leonard Peltier has garnered international condemnation and repeated demands for his immediate release by Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robbert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Rev. Jesse Jackson , the Dalai Lama, Queen Elizabeth and many others. He has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
A Facebook event for the 'NW Regional Leonard Peltier and Mother Earth March' held on Saturday, May 18th, 2013, reads:
Quote from event:
"I have no doubt whatsoever that the real motivation behind both Wounded Knee II and the Oglala firefight, and much of the turmoil throughout Indian Country since the early 1970s, was--and is--the mining companies' desire to muffle AIM and all traditional Indian people, who sought--and still seek--to protect the land, water, and air from their thefts and depredations. In this sad and tragic age we live in, to come to the defense of Mother Earth is to be branded a criminal."
"We want people of all races to get involved with this", defense committee member Doroty Ninham told Al-Jazeera back in April on the 37th anniversary of Mr. Peltier's incarceration. "We want to remind people that as long as Leonard is not free, none of us are free. I don't know how the United States can sit with this black eye and then talk about human rights in other countries when we are failing to take care of our own issues here."
As the steadfast beat of the drums accompanied the marchers throught the streets of Tacoma, Peltier's son walking tall amongst them, banners held high, their eyes betray a sadness that may never be erased. It is a sadness that comes from witnessing the relentless and cavalier indifference towards the life of an innocent man by a country that claims to represent the exact opposite values...the shocking realization that the land of the brave and free, the USA, the great country that claims to be founded on the concept of equality and freedom for all, can continue for 37 long years to display such a complete and utter indifference to the life of an innocent man.
It is soul-destroying, this indifference, this injustice, this glaring contempt for the truth...yet Leonard Peltier continues to inspire and to lead from within the walls of the prison, a leader by circumstance, who by his very existence stands for the fight to defend Mother Earth herself in this time of great need. Leonard Peltier will be free one day. Justice will be served somehow. His case will not be forgotten, as thousands more take up the cry to free this beloved and humble Ojibwa and Dakota Sioux Native American man who will surely go down in the history books as one of America's greatest civil rights activists and a champion of Mother Earth. As one of the banners in the march reads, 'Constitutional rights taken from one...is rights taken away from all.' Leonard Peltier is the embodiment of the great American eagle, trapped inside a tarnished gilded cage....when he is finally set free America may find herself set free as well.
The man who has already become a legend to his people writes from prison:
--Leonard Peltier, Prison Writings --
"Mother Earth is in peril! The resistance to the continuing abuse of Mother Earth and all that dwell upon her is gaining strength. The movements against Keystone XL Tar Sand Pipeline, the coal trains, Idle No More, Leonard Peltier and many others are all connected. We all seek to resist the harmful things being done to our Mother Earth! It will take a great united voice from all of us to be heard by those that profit by exploiting Mother Earth for their personal wealth. It will take the people in the streets for the pressure that is needed. Though they have much money and power, we are not weak. We have the power of the spirit of the people united in common cause for the well-being of Mother Earth and the people who dwells upon her. President Obama has yet to listen to us. But we cannot stop until our goals have been met."
Full story of what happened at Wounded Knee in 1970:http://www.aljazeera.com/humanrights/201