Interview with Bob Robideau
Co-director of Leonard Peltier Defence Committee
By Aaron Mercredi
In the last week of March Vancouver and Victoria saw a very important tour by Bob Robideau, the co-director of the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee and International spokesperson for the committee. We spoke with Bob just before he left Vancouver back to US.
Fire This Time: Can you tell us who you are and where you’re from?
Bob Robideau: My name is Bob Robideau. I am currently the co-director for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (LPDC). I am also a co-defendant. We are first cousins, Leonard and I. We’re from the Anishnabe Nation, Turtle Mountain, White Earth and Spirit Lake Lakota. We have both been long-time members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) since the 1970s.
FTT: What is the current work of the LPDC right now?
BR: Currently, the LPDC is focused on a new campaign to free Leonard Peltier through clemency. This campaign will last approximately six years. This is because presidents normally do not consider clemency until their term ends. Our estimate of the work that we’ve already done in over 30 years that Leonard has been in prison, and also our experience during his attempt for clemency in 2002 has brought us to the realization that clemency is the only vehicle that will open the door for Leonard Peltier.
Parole, of which he is scheduled to have hearings on in December of 2008, is not realistic in our estimation simply because the parole board in the past has denied him any sort of reasonable hearings. They have brought in FBI agents, introduced Coler and Williams’ families. This is normally what parole boards do, but they have stated on two separate occasions that they feel that Leonard Peltier is guilty as charged of the conviction in 1977, so the mentality of the parole board is basically that of the FBI agents, who in 2002 demonstrated en masse against clemency for Leonard Peltier.
We feel that because of the political climate inside the United States in relationship to the war on Iraq and the current posture of the Democratic Party and recent events that have included Leonard Peltier in the national democratic campaign, this has revealed that there is significant support for Leonard Peltier’s clemency. We have so far begun to get re-endorsements in the European community. From Ireland, who have committed themselves; the Irish government of Gerry Adams. And also Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu have stated that they too will re-endorse their support. We have no doubt that the European Union will as well. And all of the support that Leonard received in 2002 in the United States and Canada will be forthcoming as well.
FTT: What was the purpose of your trip in to Canada with this tour?
BR: My purpose in coming to Canada was to begin a national campaign to free Leonard Peltier, and I felt that it was very important to choose Canada as a beginning point simply because Canada was the place where the United States Department of Justice fabricated documents. Following that, the Canadian Justice Department accepted those documents, knowing that they were fabricated by the FBI Department of Justice and used them as a vehicle to extradite Leonard Peltier back to the United States.
FTT: What kind of support work has been done in Canada in the past?
BR: Since that extradition in 1976 there has been widespread support in Canada, especially during the clemency campaign and before that. There has been an attempt to get an investigation in Canada around the illegal extradition and the Canadian government has thus far refused to open up an investigation. In conjunction with that, we have also attempted to get congressional hearings on the same issue, and also on issues around the ‘reign of terror’ in which 300 Oglala Lakotas were assaulted and more than 50 were killed. The United States, as in Canada, they have refused to open up congressional hearings to hear testimony on these incidents.
FTT: Looking at the history of AIM is also looking at the US government’s war on Native people. With AIM, it was the FBI, COINTELPRO, and they continue to wage a campaign against Leonard’s freedom. While you were here in Vancouver, I know you experienced some disruptions of events that were in support of Leonard Peltier. Have you experienced this sort of sabotage of these solidarity or support events in the US?
BR: Never. This is the first time in the history of the struggle to free Leonard Peltier that the LPDC has experienced these types of disruptions by Native people. But, the disruptions that were experienced in Vancouver, BC, are similar to the disruptions in which the FBI attempted to initiate with the American Indian Movement during its height as a political body. The United States perceived AIM as a threat to the security of the United States, which they stated in their congressional hearing where they only called one witness, Douglas Durham, who was exposed as an FBI informant provocateur.
The COINTELPRO program was originally directed at the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the Black Panther Party and the anti-war movement. The intent of the COINTELPRO program initiated through the FBI was to disrupt organizations from within. Basically by imploding the organization through provocateurs whose responsibility was to create dissatisfaction and disruptions from within, through various methods and venues. The FBI, also through the COINTELPRO program, initiated burglaries to get at sensitive information from these organizations. They worked with state police to disrupt the Black Panther Party, for example, who on several occasions, initiated violence with the Black Panther Party, resulting in several deaths of Black Panthers. These were basically murders perpetuated through this program.
Certainly similar occurrences have occurred within the American Indian Movement as well that have been initiated by the FBI, supported and financed by the United States government. This goes back to the 55 Oglala Lakotas who were murdered during the ‘reign of terror,’ which was from 1973, at which time there was the 71-day occupation of Wounded Knee, through to the summer of 1976, in which also 300 Oglala Lakotas were assaulted.
FTT: How is Leonard’s struggle for freedom, a man who represents the AIM and the struggle of Native people, ultimately a universal struggle?
BR: Through the struggle to free Leonard Peltier, the LPDC itself has gone globally to create awareness of the injustice of Leonard Peltier’s case. On a wider spectrum is the struggle for the end of Native American oppression in North America. Of course, this covers a wide spectrum of activities by the US government; not only historically, but also contemporarily. Today we see the continuous attacks to remove Native people from their lands and continuation of insidious silent genocide that continues in Native country through various programs that the US continues to impose on Native nations. Leonard Peltier has become a symbol of Native struggle in North America. Leonard Peltier continues to be active, despite the fact that he is in prison and through various communication channels (writing, various interviews), Leonard has been able to voice his concerns in various areas of Native struggle.
FTT: Any final words?
BR: As we enter this new platform to free Leonard Peltier, we are enthusiastic. There is a new climate in North America, as well as other parts of the world, that has basically allowed us to be enthusiastic. Recent communications, national and international communications, through the recent democratic candidates who have announced their candidacy, have revealed a strong support within the American community and have voiced their objections to the 2002 denial of Leonard Peltier’s clemency, through Clinton at that time. Because of this and because of the fact that the Republican party has initiated another war against a people, simply to steal their natural resources, to initiate another colonized state in which they can manipulate the people, the political administration of Iraq, just as they continue to do with Native nations in this country and as they intend to do with Iran and the Palestinian people with the assistance Israel in regards to the Palestinian people and their struggle, we must always keep in mind that these struggles that are going on to maintain their freedom in other countries are the same as ours in this country. The methodologies to oppress and take over these countries, to get at their natural resources, are the same methodologies used against Native people in this country, historically and contemporarily.
Leonard Peltier and the Leonard Peltier Defence Committee would like to thank the Coast Salish Nation for allowing us to come in to their country to talk about truth and justice in relationship to his case and in relationship to the ongoing struggles of all Native people across Canada and the United States.
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