NEW YORK – The “I Will Ask – Will You?,” clemency for Leonard Peltier began in 2012 after Harry Belafonte and the late Pete Seeger held a concert Peltier in the Beacon Theatre in New York City.
Jack Healey who was the former director of Amnesty International USA came to deliver the opening remarks and he suggested a different approach to seeking Peltier’s freedom. He had worked to free Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma and others and he felt that it was time to seek freedom for Peltier simply based on his age, his declining health and his time served. Leonard had been in prison for 36 years at that time and it was clear that he had exhausted all of his possible legal options.
The producers decided to drop the legal arguments and leave that to Leonard’s lawyers and his committee. The questionable issues surrounding his trial and later appeals have been well documented. So under the banner of Human Rights Action Center we set out to make these PSA’s.
Writer Sheron Leonard came up with the concept of “I Will Ask. Will You?” and it just took off.
Quite a few celebrities and Human Rights advocates have contributed to lending their faces and strong voices, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, Wes Studi, Jackson Browne, Harry Belafonte, Pete Seeger, Chris Eyre, Bonnie Raitt, Robbie Robertson, Tom Morelo, Judd Nelson, Irene Bedard, Carlos Santana, Elena Grassel, Peter Gabriel, Qorianka Kilcher, Kris Kristofferson, the Baker Twins and quite a few others take part in it.
The latest video features Chaske Spencer, young Native actor and producer. He was one of the stars of the Twilight Saga and is involved in several exciting new film projects. He was born the year of the incident at Oglala and grew up in Montana hearing stories about those days from his parents and others on his reservation.
The Oglala Sioux Tribe and the National Congress of American Indians and other tribes have been strong advocates for Leonard’s freedom as well.
“At this point it will be a very short campaign. In less then 6 months the Obama Presidency will be over. Leonard’s future lies in the hands of this President.
We are asking people to call the White House comment line at 202-456-1111 and/or tweet the President at @potus. Ask him to use his executive powers and Free Leonard Peltier,” says Jack Magee, producer of the videos.
President Obama and the First Lady have shown an honest interest in making things change for the better in Indian country and with the President being a constitutional scholar things seem fairly hopeful for Leonard to be able to return home. If not. Who knows. But it seems sure that with his mounting health problems he would not survive that much longer in prison. All the PSA’s can be seen on Facebook at I will ask. Will You.
Levi Rickert, a tribal citizen of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, is the publisher and editor of Native News Online. Previously, he served as editor of the Native News Network. He is a resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan.