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Where's the justice for Leonard Peltier... and "justice for all?" Say goodbye; it's Independence Day

Updated: 5 days ago

July 4, 2024


Here in the U.S., if nothing else this Independence Day week has made one thing crystal-clear to even the most starry-eyed-and-laughing dreamers among us: No, this is by no means the land where "justice for all" exists.


Monday's Supreme Court decision has gotten much attention, of course, and rightfully so, but on the very next day after the Court's decision was announced, the U.S. Parole Commission announced that it once again denied parole to Leonard Peltier, the Native American activist who has been imprisoned for almost fifty years on charges related to the deaths of two F.B.I. agents in a 1975 shootout at Pine Ridge Reservation. Peltier's conviction and imprisonment has been deemed unjust by numerous legal experts and human-rights organizations around the globe for decades. Peltier is also now 79 years old and in poor health.


In 1989, Stevie Van Zandt - a.k.a. Little Steven - released his song "Leonard Peltier," distilling the basic facts and history surrounding Peltier's conviction, accompanied by a music-video for the song:



Van Zandt was scheduled to speak at Peltier's June 10 Parole Commission hearing, but the Commission ultimately cut the number of witnesses permitted to speak on behalf of Peltier. On July 1, however, Van Zandt contributed an op-ed piece to CNN. It's focused mainly on responding to F.B.I. Director Christopher Wray's statement at the June 10 hearing urging the Parole Commission to deny parole to Peltier, and it's entitled, "I deeply respect the FBI. It’s in that spirit that I say they’re getting this very wrong." Click here to read Stevie Van Zandt's full CNN op-ed piece. Van Zandt also told The New York Times that the F.B.I.'s handling of Peltier's case was “really, really disturbing, and I think hurts the credibility of the F.B.I. to even try and defend it.” Stevie added that denying parole to Leonard Peltier would be “the final terrible chapter in one of the worst, most terrible chapters of American history.”


After the Parole Commission announced its denial, Stevie Van Zandt posted the following statement on his social-media:



Leonard Peltier's attorneys also issued a statement after the Parole Commission's announcement. It concluded as follows:


"Leonard is a prisoner of war. Echoing Frederick Douglass this 4th of July holiday, [we] reflect on his enduring words, 'what have...those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?'

We who believe in freedom cannot rest. We will not give up the fight for Leonard - and neither should you."

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