Democratic Socialists of America calls for the immediate release of political prisoner Leonard Peltier (Anishinaabe/Dakota) from the United States Penitentiary, Coleman, in Florida. Mr. Peltier is 77 years old and has been incarcerated by the United States Government for over 46 years, suffering under the interdependent cruelties of the settler-colonialist state and the prison-industrial complex.
Mr. Peltier tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, January 28, becoming one of millions of Americans suffering directly because of the malfeasance of the federal COVID response, but his position is particularly dangerous as a person with multiple cardiopulmonary health problems (diabetes, hypertension and an aortic aneurysm, among others), and the lack of adequate medical treatment that is available to incarcerated people.
It is an egregious human rights violation to keep an elderly, infirm person incarcerated, and it is particularly disturbing in Mr. Peltier’s case, as his imprisonment, which has now stretched nearly 30 years past his date of eligible parole, is purely a political matter, beginning with an illegal extradition and spurred on by Mr. Peltier’s tireless repudiation of the violent and dehumanizing conditions within the federal prison system as well as within the reservation system; two of the most shameful aspects of the US American empire. We stand in solidarity with the indigenous elected officials of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, including DSA member Ruth Buffalo, North Dakota State Representative from District 27, in their call for the immediate release of Leonard Peltier through the granting of clemency by President Joe Biden. We see the fight for Mr. Peltier’s liberation as one part of a global movement that stretches from Chile to Indonesia, to end the criminalization of indigenous activism by neocolonialist powers, whether they be national governments or multinational companies.
This matter is urgent and cannot await bureaucratic maneuvers. Mr. Peltier is sick right now, and his community, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota, has expressed a full willingness and desire to welcome him home, see to his immediate medical needs and provide him the support and care that an elder community member requires.
DSA further calls on all DSA members to contact their congressional representatives and urge them to co-sign the requests made by Senators Schatz and Leahy for Peltier’s release. We also call on DSA chapters to publish similar statements of support for the immediate release of Leonard Peltier. We further encourage our comrades to stand in solidarity with those seeking truth and reconciliation surrounding American Indian Residential Schools–forced re-education camps for children in which Leonard Peltier spent most of his childhood–as well as the crucial work of abolition. Socialists across the United States owe a historic debt and duty to those people whose land we occupy, and it is the responsibility of all of us to uplift the efforts of indigenous peoples in the United States and around the world in their fight for sovereignty, self-determination, freedom and land back.
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