Hundreds of FBI agents are marching in front of the White House today to protest against the possibility of President Clinton granting clemency to Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing two federal agents.
Carrying a “Never Forget” banner lettered in red, a line of agents stood two-by-two and marched to the White House gate with a petition signed by 8,000 current and former agents.
Secret Service agents at the White House gate rejected the envelope initially, telling their fellow federal officers that no packages or documents could be accepted for security reasons. Later a White House staff member came out and received the petitions.
Susan Lloyd, an FBI field office spokeswoman who joined the protesters, said the vast majority of those in the demonstration were active agents who applied for the day off.
“None of this is on government time,” she said. The officers were escorted by about 30 District of Columbia police on motorcycles.
Agents said they knew of no similar public display by active agents in the past.
Clinton Considering Pardon
Clinton drew the ire of FBI agents last month when it appeared he may join the group of Peltier supporters. During a “Get-Out-The-Vote” phone call with New York radio station WBAI, he told listeners he would review Peltier’s request for a pardon.
Peltier, former leader of the American Indian Movement, has been serving a life sentence since his murder conviction for the slayings of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1975. Peltier has maintained his innocence and argued that he was framed and did not receive a fair trial.
“I know it’s important to a lot of people, maybe both sides of this issue. And I think I owe it to them to give it an honest look-see,” Clinton said. “I will see what the merits dictate, based on the evidence.”
Since his conviction, a huge contingency of world leaders, lawmakers, and entertainers have supported Peltier in his quest for clemency. They include: Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, Robert Redford, Willie Nelson and Winona Ryder.
Clinton’s comments drew a renewed plea for Peltier’s clemency from Amnesty International and the outrage of FBI Director Louis Freeh and law enforcement agents nationwide.
“Leonard Peltier is the last person in this country who is a worthy candidate for presidential clemency,” FBI special agent John Sennett said this morning on Good Morning America. “He has been remorseless. He has refused to take accountability for his actions. We just feel he should remain in prison for the rest of this life.”
Defenders: The Time Has Come
Jennifer Harbury, Peltier’s longtime attorney, said this morning on GMA that it is time for Peltier to be freed.
“Mr. Peltier has been in prison for 25 years. He is way overdue for parole,” Harbury said. “He has been receiving human rights awards for the good deeds he has done behind bars, for his massive humanitarian efforts, and he is in failing health.”
Harbury also said FBI agents should not be protesting.
“It is very disturbing in any democracy for armed police officers to march through the streets of the capital,” Harbury told GMA’s Charlie Gibson. “But it is especially true in the context of this case, which raises one of the ugliest chapters of FBI civil rights violations against Native Americans in recent American history,” she said, referring to the period before the shooting.