Prominent San Francisco Ministers Call on President Obama to Release Leonard Peltier, Save Oak Flats, Protect Standing Rock

Reverend Cecil Williams and Janice Mirikitani

Published January 10, 2017

By Patricia Montes Gregory and Arthur Jacobs

SAN FRANCISCO —Two longtime prominent—and longtime activists—ministers, Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., interim senior pastor, and the Reverend Cecil Williams, co-founder of the Liberation of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco are lending their support current Native American issues that include Standing Rock and Oak Flat. In addition, they are calling for President Barack Obama to grant Leonard Peltier’s petition for clemency.

Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr.

“The Glide congregation has been greatly concerned about recent events concerning the disenfranchisement of our Native people, the first people of this land. We have sent people to see, and be a part of what is happening at Standing Rock. We appreciate the concern the President has shown, but we would ask that you do all you can to make sure that the Army Corp of Engineers begins the Environmental Impact Statement process before you leave office, so that this important opportunity to save this water, and this sacred land is not lost,” stated Bishop Brown.

Shacheen Littlefeather, Richard Flittle, and Ben

“In a very similar way we are concerned about the sacred land of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. They have a sacred space at Oak Flat, that is located in the Tonto National Forest that is in the process of being removed from their control by a land swap for mining interests and this sacred space is going to be taken away from them,” Bishop Brown goes on to further state.

It would be like a major synagogue or church being taken away from their people. It is important Mr. President that you do all that you can do before you leave office! Finally, I want to personally express my sentiment that, we need to uphold the federal laws that would keep sacred, this sacred space, and would not allow this church to be pushed aside by powerful secular interests. We need to uphold our laws that protects religion and the free practice of religion for the San Carlos Apache Tribe. “

Finally, Mr. President I would make a personal appeal to you that before you leave office you grant clemency to Leonard Peltier. He is 71 years old in failing health. He has spent most of his life in prison, enough time has passed justice would be best served by allowing this person to be released from prison to live his final days in peace. I appreciate all that you have done and I would hope that this clemency could be a part of your legacy for caring for all people.”

With President Obama leaving the presidency on January 20, 2017, there has been a renewed call for him to grant Peltier’s release. Amnesty International is among one of the largest organizations calling for his release.

“Leonard Peltier may die in prison unless the president acts before his term is up,” said Zeke Johnson of Amnesty International USA.

Former FBI special Agent John C. “Jack” Ryan also calls for Peltier’s release. In addition, head of the prosecution team that convicted Peltier, former U.S. attorney James H. Reynolds in a letter to President Obama wrote, “Clemency for Peltier would be in the best interest of Justice.”

“In each of these situations with Leonard Peltier, the Standing Rock Sioux, with the San Carlos Apache Tribe people we have seen government assert itself in ways that often overlooks and rushes past the rights and concern of people. Those that have stood for the rights of native people, have often been crushed under that power. It is my hope and Prayer that my voice along with many others like Amnesty International, and others closely familiar with Leonard Peltier’s case will be able to impress you to grant him clemency at this time, and to do all you can to stop the transgression of the rights both for the San Carlos Apache people and for the Sioux people at Standing Rock” stated Bishop Brown.

The Reverend Cecil Williams, has a close relationship with Native Americans. When we visited him recently, he spoke of his deep respect for Dennis Banks, who he met during the 1970s when the American Indian Movement was allowed to use the GLIDE church for meetings.

“It is very important that we work from the people who are in the straights of issues that constantly pit us against others, and others against us. What we want is to own our land. This is what the Native Americans want, I’m sure. They want respect, and they also want to own what is theirs, it’s theirs it belongs to them. President Barack Obama you gotta listen! Listen very carefully, because were talking about doing something that so many people want us not to do. What we want to do is make sure that the land, the water, and the love and respect is given back to the people, because it is theirs they own it, It is theirs! They worked hard to keep that land, it is a segment of their community, and we should turn our arms open and say, we love you, we love you, WE LOVE YOU! You can do it Mr. President, do it now,” continued Bishop Brown.

Photos by Patricia Montes Gregory

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  1. Patricia Smith Olmstead 8 months ago