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Real facts behind AMERICAN Indian Movement

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Real facts behind AMERICAN Indian Movement

Patterned after the California-based BLACK PANTHER PARTY, the American Indian Movement (AIM) was organized in Minneapolis during the summer of
1968. As chapters spread across the country, AIM began to garner national attention. Members participated in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, though AIM did not initiate the move. A 1972 “Trail of Broken Treaties” march on Washington, D.C. climaxed with presentation of a 20-point solution paper to President RICHARD NIXON.

The following year, a 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, included violent clashes with the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) and U.S. Army, and the government-sponsored vigilante group GUARDIANS OF THE OGLALA NATION (GOON), resulting in exposure of the FBI’s illegal tactics. A total of 1,162 persons were finally arrested, including 562 siege participants and 600 others detained across the country for supporting AIM. Of the 1,162 initially jailed, only 185 were finally indicted, some of them on multiple felony charges. 
Trials spanned the next two years, but the most important was the trial of AIM leaders Dennis Banks and Russell Means in 1974. Each defendant was charged with 13 counts, including arson, burglary, criminal conspiracy, theft, interfering with federal officers, and possession of illegal weapons. Judge Fred Nichol ultimately dismissed all charges, lamenting from the bench that
“The FBI I have revered so long, has stooped so low.”
Nichol added:
Although it hurts me deeply, I am forced to the conclusion that the prosecution in the trial had something other than attaining justice foremost in its mind. . . .
The fact that the incidents of misconduct formed a pattern throughout the course of the trial leads me to the belief that this case was not prosecuted in good faith or in the spirit of justice. The waters of justice have been polluted, and dismissal, I believe, is the appropriate cure for the pollution in this case.
Still, the GOON campaign of TERRORISM continued at Pine Ridge for another two years. On June 26,1975, a shootout occurred on the reservation between FBI agents and members of AIM, claiming the lives Agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams, along with AIM member Joe Killsright. On November 25, 1975, a federal grand jury indicted four AIM members for the Coler-Williams murders. Defendants Darelle Butler, James Eagle, and Robert Robideau were already in custody, while 31-year-old
Leonard Peltier remained at large.
Canadian police captured Peltier at Hinton, Alberta, on February 6, 1976, and extradited him to the United States on December 18. At trial, defendants Butler and
Robideau admitted firing on Coler and Williams, but they claimed that the G-men had started the shootout; jurors acquitted both men on July 16, 1976, accepting their plea of self-defense. Prosecutors dropped all charges against James Eagle on September 8, 1976, leaving Peltier as the only defendant in the case. At his trial, beginning in March 1977, the government claimed Peltier alone had shot both agents, killing them execution style with rifle bullets fired at point-blank range. To prove that case, prosecutors illegally suppressed an FBI memo of October 2, 1975, stating that Peltier’s weapon “contains a different firing pin than that in [the] rifle used at [the] . . . scene.” Deprived of that exculpatory evidence, jurors convicted Peltier on April 18, 1977.
Six weeks later, on June 1, 1977, Judge Paul Benson sentenced Peltier to two consecutive life terms.
Today, many FBI critics still regard his trial as a deliberate frame-up.
AIM remains active today, though its programs rarely make national headlines. FBI harassment has presumably ceased, though members still recall an off-the-record comment from one G-man after Wounded Knee: “Half the stuff that went on out there isn’t even on paper.” In 2000 FBI Director Louis Freeh lobbied publicly (and successfully) to discourage President Bill Clinton from pardoning Leonard Peltier.


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