Demonstrators take to Little Current streets to free AIM activist Leonard Peltier

Demonstrators march down Water Street in Little Current to bring attention to the plight of imprisoned AIM activist Leonard Peltier.

LITTLE CURRENT—A hardy group of placard and drum carrying demonstrators braved 30 below temperatures recently, taking to the streets of Little Current on the 40th anniversary of the imprisonment of American Indian Movement (AIM) activist Leonard Peltier to bring pressure on US President Barak Obama to grant a clemency.

“I know everyone is struggling with the cold,” said march organizer Isadore Pangowish of Wikwemikong, a member of the AIM affiliated United Urban Warrior Society. “But we are only going through a little of the suffering that Leonard Peltier has been going through every day for the last 40 years.” Mr. Pangowish addressed about 15 supporters gathered outside the post office in downtown Little Current.

“This day marks International Solidarity Day for Leonard Peltier,” said Mr. Pangowish.

The group began their march at the Little Current Recreation Centre, travelling down Highway 6 and following Manitowaning Road onto Water Street in the downtown core. Following the stop at the post office building where Mr. Pangowish and his supporters sang and drummed in a circle, the group continued up Water Street to Robinson Street and back up to the recreation centre where they held a traffic slowdown to pass out information sheets/petition letters, urging passersby to read about Mr. Peltier and then to sign letters petitioning US President Barack Obama to grant Mr. Peltier an executive clemency. US presidents have the power to grant clemency to those imprisoned or who might be imprisoned for their actions.

“Leonard Peltier, an innocent man, was convicted for the 1975 shooting deaths of two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” explained Mr. Pangowish. “US prosecutors have repeatedly admitted that they did not and cannot prove Peltier’s guilt and the appellate courts have cited numerous instances of investigative and prosecutorial misconduct in this case,” he went on to assert. Mr. Pangowish quoted a November 2003 statement by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals: “Much of the government’s behaviour at the Pine Ridge Reservation and its prosecution of Mr. Peltier is to be condemned. The government withheld evidence. It intimidated witnesses. These facts are not disputed.”

“The courts claim they lack the power to right this wrong,” reads the letter to the president. “But as president, you can.”

The day before the march took place, Manitoulin OPP provincial liaison team member Constable Cara Makort dropped by local businesses on Little Current’s main downtown street to explain that the demonstration was to take place, what business owners and their customers could expect and the route the demonstration was expected to take.

Ms. Makort explained that her division of the OPP was formed in the wake of the Ipperwash tragedy to help ensure better communication and public safety during demonstrations and protests.

“People have the right to speak their minds,” said Constable Makort. “Our job is to ensure that everyone remains safe.”

As part of her duties, Constable Makort makes sure that local businesses and the public are aware of what is going on and she and her fellow officers assist the demonstrators themselves to stay within the bounds of what is acceptable. “We let them know if they are crossing the line into where they might be arrested for their actions,” she said.

Constable Makort and other officers in plainclothes accompanied the demonstrators as they marched from the Little Current Recreation Centre through downtown and back up the hill to where the traffic slowdown and information picket took place.

Video of the drum circle and singing in front of the post office in downtown Little Current can be found on The Expositor website at manitoulin.ca.

Michael Erskine