[Pnews] Ex-FBI Force Removal of Leonard Peltier Paintings
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed May 10 15:59:47 EDT 2017
Ex-FBI Force Removal of Leonard Peltier Paintings
<https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/author/frank-hopper/> • May 9, 2017
*“Freeze! Ex-FBI!”* Would you obey that command? Several State of
Washington officials did. In November 2015 they removed four paintings
by American Indian Movement
activist Leonard Peltier from a state-sponsored exhibition of Native
American art, primarily due to the complaints of two private groups of
retired FBI Agents.
Then, in March 2017, Leonard Peltier, who is currently serving two
consecutive life sentences for murder after a highly controversial
conviction in 1977, filed suit in federal court along with his son
Chauncey against leaders of the two groups as well as several State of
Washington officials, including Governor Jay Inslee
for violating Peltier’s first amendment rights.
*Leonard Peltier’s Paintings Removed by a “Heckler’s Veto”*
The four paintings were originally included in a small lobby exhibition
intended to celebrate Native American Heritage Month
The paintings, along with work by other Native artists, were on display
in the lobby of Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries
headquarters in Tumwater, Washington. None of the artwork by any of the
artists was political or controversial.
The lawsuit contends
on November 15, 2015, Labor and Industries Director Joel Sacks, his
Public Affairs Manager Timothy Church, and Governor Jay Inslee caved-in
to the protests of two retired FBI agents, Edward P. Woods, founder of
the No Parole Peltier Association <http://www.noparolepeltier.com/>, and
Larry Langberg, director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the
FBI <http://www.socxfbi.org/>. On that date Sacks, Church and Inslee
unceremoniously had Peltier’s paintings removed from the exhibition due
to “knowingly false statements and slurs” from the former FBI agents
intended “to induce [state officials] to remove Leonard Peltier’s
artwork and expression from the exhibition.”
Although, according to the lawsuit, the state only received four
negative comments regarding Peltier’s paintings and hundreds, “if not
thousands,” of positive comments supporting their inclusion, Sacks,
Church and Inslee removed the paintings anyway simply because Leonard
Peltier himself is “too controversial” and the controversy “detracted
from the message of the exhibit’ which was unspecified.” The lawsuit
calls this a “heckler’s veto,” where the government bans protected
speech because it fears a violent response.
*Personal Thoughts: Who Are Those Guys?*
Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid being pursued by the super
posse, I found myself asking “Who are those guys?” when I first became
involved in this story. In November 2015, I’d seen a report on Seattle’s
nightly news about the removal of Peltier’s paintings from the exhibit.
The story called Leonard Peltier a “cop killer” and featured an
interview with retired FBI agent Ray Lauer in which he referred to
Leonard as a “thug.” My friends and I staged a small rally outside the
King 5 studios on Thanksgiving of that year, protesting the ex-FBI
agent’s and King 5’s blatant slurring of Leonard’s character.
As part of a story I wrote
I contacted Edward Woods of the No Parole Peltier Association to get his
side of it. The response I got was both polite and scathing and went on
for pages. And pages. I wanted to put down my iPad and step away from it
as I read his email. To me, Woods was more of a junkyard dog than a
former law enforcement official. I understood why state officials were
afraid of Woods and his fellow ex-FBI agent Larry Langberg.
They seemed organized and savvy enough to monitor the Internet for any
news about Leonard
Peltier and ready to send representatives at a moment’s notice to attack
any attempt to give him publicity. It appeared to me they even contacted
King 5 and fed them the story about their success at getting the
paintings removed. But there was one thing they hadn’t counted on: the
good people at the Olympia Food Co-op.
Volunteers help paint a mural version of incarcerated American Indian
Movement activist Leonard Peltier’s painting, “Black Kettle Still,” on
the Eastside Olympia Food Co-op in Olympia, Washington. The public was
invited to help fill in the color of an outline designed by mural artist
Ira Coyne. Students from a local high school were even given credit for
participating and learning about Leonard Peltier.
*Meanwhile, Back on Planet Earth*
A year and a half after the paintings were removed, I sat in the state
capital of Olympia having coffee at the Eastside Olympia Food Co-op with
mural artist Ira Coyne
Coyne has long been a supporter of Leonard’s, having grown up listening
to alternative radio programs with his father. One day while at the
co-op he overheard Brian Frisina, also known as Raven Redbone, the
moderator of a Native radio program called “No Bones About It” on KAOS,
a community radio station in Olympia. The two began talking and Frisina
told Coyne about the removal of Leonard’s paintings. Coyne suggested
they make a mural of one of Leonard’s paintings as a way to inform the
community of the country’s longest-held political prisoner.
With the help of Lucas Anderson, a co-op committee member, he received
permission to paint two murals based on Leonard’s paintings. An
anonymous donor paid for the project and soon two super-sized versions
of Leonard Peltier paintings went up, one on each of the co-op’s two
“The murals are more enduring than just a meeting or a rally. They’re
always there, keeping the spirit alive,” Coyne said.
As he created the murals, he invited the public to help. Anyone walking
by could help fill in the outline Coyne had created, similar to a giant
paint-by-numbers set, and volunteers were told who Leonard Peltier is
and why his story is important. Since then, Coyne created three
additional Peltier murals in Minneapolis and one more by Olympia’s
Artesian Well, bringing the total to six.
At the opening of the mural on the Eastside branch of the Olympia Food
Co-op, a strange man appeared and began taking pictures of the mural
with a telephoto lens. He stayed back at first and then became bolder,
snapping pictures out in front of the mural. He never spoke to anyone
and finally got in his car and drove away.
“I asked Chauncey about it,” Ira recalled, speaking of Leonard’s son who
was there attending the opening. “Chauncey said, ‘Oh, those guys are
always following me around.’”
Leonard Peltier’s son Chauncey displays a print of his father’s
painting, “On a Hunt,” while standing in front of a mural based on it,
co-painted by Forrest Wozniak and Elijah Benson. It appears on the
exterior of the White Page Gallery in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one of
three Peltier murals in Minneapolis designed and supervised by artist
But no amount of surveillance or bullying can stop the healing brought
about by Leonard Peltier’s art. Ironically, the barking of the ex-FBI
junkyard dogs has resulted in six separate murals in two different
cities and countless lives being touched by them. The medicine of an old
warrior applying color to a canvas in a maximum-security prison
reverberates out into the hearts of communities across the country,
creating much more awareness of Leonard Peltier and of our nation’s true
history than the original exhibition ever would have.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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