By Ian Brzeski | United States
On July 28th a group of riders rode out from Mankato, Minnesota, planning to arrive at Coleman prison in Coleman, Florida on September 22nd. Coleman prison is where Leonard Peltier is currently being held on a double life sentence for the murder of two FBI agents. They plan on making many stops along the way and need all the support they can get. Leonard Peltier is believed by many to be wrongfully imprisoned. That’s why Ken Fourcloud, a Crow Creek Sioux Tribe citizen, organized this freedom ride in the hopes of President Trump granting Peltier his release.
Peltier, suffering from serious health issues, is 73 years old and has spent the last 41 years of his life in prison. He has been denied parole a multitude of times and hopes to be set free so he can spend his final moments with his family. It is highly believed that the prosecutors and federal agents:
- planted his murder weapon as well as other evidence against him.
- hid evidence that proved his innocence.
- used torture methods to produce a false testimony out of Peltier.
- ignored court orders.
- lied to the jury.
On June 26th, 1975 two federal agents went onto private property on the Pine Ridge Reservation, the Jumping Bull Ranch. The agents did nothing to identify themselves. They were in a normal civilian car, had normal clothes, and didn’t mention to anybody that they were federal agents. All of a sudden, a shootout started for unknown reasons. A family with children were caught in the cross-fire. Fearing for their lives, many of the men on the reservation returned fire.
The two federal agents died in the shooting along with a 30-year-old Native American man who went by the name Joe Stuntz. The investigation of the killings of these two federal agents went into full throttle by the United States government, however, the killing of Joe Stuntz was never investigated. Immediately after the shooting took place, government forces swarmed the area and began harassing the people on the reservation. Forces shot up the Jumping Bull home (not killing anybody, but just shooting at the portraits in the house) and intimidated the people with assault rifles to issue warrantless intrusions on the homes of these individuals.
Manipulation of the media is nothing new by the United States government and it is not new in this case. FBI reports claimed that the agents were set up in an ambush by trained guerilla warfare and even went on to say that one of the agents begged for their lives for the sake of the other agent’s family. More reports stated that the agents were “riddled with bullets.” That statement had to be taken back by the FBI director as many reporters who were digging around figured out that that wasn’t the case at all.
According to the government, the two agents were out to arrest a Native American man, Jimmy Eagle. They claim that the agents saw Eagle drive onto the Jumping Bull Ranch property in a red pick up truck. Coincidentally, members of the American Indian Movement were on the property at that time because they were seeking protection from all the violence on the reservation. Leonard Peltier was one of these members present and became the focus of the whole investigation.
Investigators would take the bits of evidence that they had on Peltier and manipulate it in a way to pin the whole shooting on him. They issued indictments on Peltier and two others who were present on the shooting. They charged Jimmy Eagle but later dropped those charges as prosecutors admitted that Eagle was not on the reservation on the day of the shooting. FBI documents support that the government dismissed charges on Eagle so they can put all their power on nailing Peltier for the shooting. Despite all the individuals who were present at the shooting, nobody received as much scrutiny as Peltier did and nobody else was charged for the killings. It was even made clear that the bullets that killed the agents weren’t even the bullets fired from Peltier’s weapon but it was never presented to the jury. To learn more about post-trial admissions, click here.
The freedom riders just want to seek justice for Leonard Peltier so he can spend his final moments with his family. They want to raise awareness on this issue and many other issues that are related to this manner. Please go and give them a donation on their GoFundMe page so the riders are able to afford everything they need to complete their journey. To track their progress, go to their Facebook page and give them your support.
“The only thing I am guilty of is struggling for my people.” -Leonard Peltier
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