Leonard Pelitier (left) and his son, Chauncey Petier, who is holding a painting that was removed from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries headquarters after ex-FBI agents complained. Photos from Twitter
Published July 18, 2018
TACOMA, Wash. — A federal judge in Tacoma, Washington on Monday ruled that case brought by political prisoner Leonard Peltier (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians) and his son, Chauncey, can move to trial. The Peltiers claim their First Admendment rights were violated when Leonard Peltier’s paintings were removed from a public exhibition were removed after former FBI agents complained to officials at the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries.
Peltier, who is a considered a political prisoner from people such as BIshop Desmond Tutu, American Indians and Amnesty International, was convicted of killing two FBI agents in 1975 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at Oglala, South Dakota. Notable legal experts, including former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark who says Peltier was not given a fair trial by the U.S. government.
Peltier is currently incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary in Coleman, Florida.
Monday’s ruling involves the removal of four paintings from a state building in Washington state. Peltier, who took up painting as a prisoner, had the four paintings on display at a public exhibition the Labor & Industries headquarters in Olympia, Washington during Native American Heritage Month in November 2015. The paintings after being on display for two weeks were removed after two ex-FBI agents complained to State of Washington officials.
After the paintings were removed the elder Peltier told his son his rights were violated. Chauncey Peltier told Native News Online that he began receiving calls from attorneys who said the Peltiers should file a lawsuit.
In Monday’s federal district court ruling, U.S. District Judge Ronald Leighton said that the Department of Labor & Industries failed to show a “compelling government interest” when it took down the four paintings.
“Freedom of speech, though not absolute, is protected against censoship or punishment, unless shown likely to produce a clear and present danger of a serious substantive evil that rises far above public inconvenience, annoyance or unrest,” Leighton writes in response the State of Washington’s motion to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The judge’s decision was met with excitement from Chauncey Peltier. Leonard Peltier has yet to react publicly to Monday’s ruling.
“This is the first time in 43 years of my father’s incarceration that any court has ruled in his favor of his rights, ” Chauncey Peltier told Native News Online on Wednesday afternoon. “This is a big deal because a court has finally recognizes the rights of my father. This comes from a known conservative judge who recognized the rights of my father were violated.”
Chauncey Peltier does not know when the case will go to trial.
Read the ruling HERE.