On Saturday, December 10, thousands of supporters of Leonard Peltier gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. in a protest rally urging President Obama to pardon the Native American political prisoner. Peltier has served over 42 in years in prison, wrongfully convicted for the death of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota in 1975.
Peltier’s case is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in American history, wherein evidence was manufactured and witnesses were coerced to give false testimony. In Obama’s final six weeks in office, he has the ability to grant Peltier clemency.
While Peltier’s case was the focus of the protest, the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota also received considerable attention. The pipeline, which has been routed to run through the reservation of the Standing Rock Sioux, has galvanized indigenous people internationally. Opposition to the pipeline has been ongoing since last summer, and Peltier has encouraged pipeline protesters from his prison cell in Florida.
The gathering was also marked by a march down Pennsylvania Avenue and a candlelight vigil in front of the White House. The march was peaceful and the mood of the protesters was both hopeful and triumphant. There is considerable optimism that the president has the moral courage to pardon Peltier, a decision that past presidents declined to make.
And in the case of the pipeline, protesters in North Dakota, at least temporarily, have halted the building of the pipeline. But remaining vigilant against injustice, as well as the environmentally damaging corporate interests of America, were the overriding themes of the day.
Read more about Leonard Peltier’s case here.