"The drum is here. So we are here."
Peltier supporters descended on Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, Oregon, this afternoon as part of a nationwide "Lunch with Leonard" campaign to raise awareness of Leonard's case and to collect letters in support of Leonard's parole.
Michael Oneroad offered tobacco and a prayer to start the day's work.
Armed with clipboards, the group of 15 or so Portlanders -- members of the fledgling Leonard Peltier Support Branch in the City of Roses -- canvassed like pros and gathered 231 parole letters, bringing the number gathered by the group to 428 in the past 1 week. Literature was distributed, too.
"Today was a blessing," Michael said.
And indeed it was.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of the Oglala shootout during which three lives were tragically lost. Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in 1977 in connection with the incident and has served nearly 34 years in federal prison despite proof of his innocence—also despite proof that he was convicted on the basis of fabricated and suppressed evidence, as well as coerced testimony.
On June 23, 1995, Amnesty International (AI) submitted a letter of concern about the Peltier case to the U.S. Attorney General. With no executive review of the case forthcoming, in 1999, AI called for Peltier's release. Before the U.S. Congress, in 2000, AI issued this statement:
"Amnesty International considers Leonard Peltier to be a political prisoner... Amnesty International believes that Leonard Peltier should be immediately and unconditionally released."
In briefings to the United Nations since 1992, AI has actively pursued Leonard's freedom. AI submitted a briefing to the U.N. Human Rights Committee in February 2006 (updated in early July 2006), in which AI again called for Peltier's release.
Peltier's parole hearing is scheduled for July 28 at the United States penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA. A vigil is planned outside the prison on the same day.