I plan to attend a “Day of Denial” demonstration in downtown Newark, NJ today, one of 70 or more such actions in almost every state in the US being organized by 350.org. These actions are demanding that US Senate members speak up and vote to oppose the climate deniers nominated by climate denier Trump for environmentally-related Cabinet positions: Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon, for Secretary of State, Scott Pruitt for EPA Administrator, Ex-Gov. Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy, and Rep. Ryan Zinke for Department of Interior.
It will be very cold in downtown Newark, below freezing. I know that I will feel it even more than usual. There’s a lot less fat on my body because today is the 8th day that I have been consuming water only.
I began this fast the morning of January 2nd. It is a fast calling upon President Obama to grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier, 72-year-old Native American activist who has been imprisoned for 41 years for a crime the government has admitted in open court it cannot prove he committed.
I decided to undertake this action when I realized in late December that this is probably Peltier’s last chance to make it out of prison alive. His health is not good, and he doesn’t come up for parole until 2024.
A decision by Obama not to parole Peltier is almost certainly a death sentence.
Peltier’s freedom is supported by Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault, Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Council of Churches, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, The Nation magazine, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others.
It is also supported by a former government prosecutor who helped to keep Peltier in prison. On January 4th The Guardian reported that:
“A senior US attorney who was involved in the prosecution of Native American activist Leonard Peltier has requested that Barack Obama grant clemency, with a rare plea that has energized the campaign to free the high-profile indigenous prisoner.
“James Reynolds, who supervised a key part of the case against Peltier, who claims he was wrongfully convicted of the 1975 murders of two FBI agents, wrote to the president that clemency for the 72-year-old would be ‘in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved.’.
“’There seems to be no point in taxpayers paying his room and board,’ Reynolds, 77, said by phone on Wednesday. ‘It’s time to call it quits.’”
The National Congress of American Indians said this in an October 12, 2015 letter to Obama:
“Mr. President, you are faced with a profound opportunity to build upon all of the wonderful work you have done addressing the inequalities that continue to face the first peoples across the nation and addressing the history of oppression and distrust. By granting Executive Clemency to Leonard Peltier you will be sending a statement to the world that going forward America will not sanction injustices and unfairness towards indigenous peoples.”
This statement puts the pardoning of Peltier in its proper context. As we are currently seeing at Standing Rock, and elsewhere where Indigenous people are asserting their rights, those whose ancestry goes back thousands of years in North America continue to suffer systemic injustices. For example, according to the US Census Bureau, 28.3% was “the percentage of single-race American Indians and Alaska Natives who were in poverty in 2014, the highest rate of any race group. For the nation as a whole, the poverty rate was 15.5 percent.”
President Obama has the power to right an historic wrong by granting executive clemency to the 72-year-old Leonard Peltier. Those of us who believe in justice must contact the White House at 202-456-1111 or www.whitehouse.gov/contact to let him know before he leaves office that we want him to do the right thing now.
Because of the urgency and importance I feel about this justice issue, I plan to continue fasting, if necessary, until January 20th, when Obama leaves office. My fast is a plea to other progressives to contact Obama right now, this week, to demand that he do the right thing. This is a people’s victory we can win that will help strengthen the historic uprising of Indigenous peoples in the USA, at Standing Rock and elsewhere.
Stand with Standing Rock, Free Leonard Peltier now!
Ted Glick has been a progressive activist and organizer since 1968. Since 2003 his primary focus has been on the issue of climate change. Past writings and other information can be found at www.tedglick.com, and he can be followed on twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.