BLOOMFIELD, NJ — A Bloomfield activist is currently fasting to gather support for a presidential pardon of a Native American.
Broughton Avenue resident Ted Glick began a water-only diet, at home, on Monday, Jan. 2. He is hoping that concerned people and Bloomfield residents will contact the White House website and request that President Barack Obama, during his last days in office, grant clemency to Leonard Peltier. Peltier is a former American Indian Movement activist who has been imprisoned for 40 years following his conviction for the killing of two FBI agents during an Indian reservation standoff in 1975.
Glick is getting the word out through various email lists, publications and progressive and environmental websites. He also gave an interview for a radio program, “Between the Lines.” Glick, 67, is the retired national campaign coordinator for Chesapeake Climate Action Network, an environmental advocacy organization. He said he got the idea for the fast sometime after Christmas.
“I saw a few things written about Peltier,” he said this past weekend at his home. “I knew all about him and I’ve done things before for getting him a fair trial or clemency. This may be his last chance for getting out and seeing his family. He’s in poor health and 72 years old.”
Glick said he did not anticipate president-elect Donald Trump to grant clemency to Peltier.
“But Obama can and should,” Glick said. “There are hundreds of organizations that have called for Peltier’s release. Even the person who prosecuted him in 1976 has come out recently and said he should be released.”
The standoff where the FBI agents were killed occurred at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota. It happened during a time of increased opposition against what some Native American activists perceived as oppression by the federal government.
Glick said that in 1975 a man named Dick Wilson was the tribal chairman who headed the reservation at Pine Ridge.
“The whole situation with Leonard Peltier happened in this context, a very oppressive environment,” Glick said. “The FBI was protecting Wilson. There was a shootout. People were armed, as they are out West.”
Glick said four people were indicted for killing the federal agents.
“Three were acquitted in Iowa,” he said. “But Peltier wasn’t part of that. He fled to Canada and was extradited and tried in North Dakota.”
According to Glick, the judge did not allow evidence supporting an acquittal for Peltier.
“It wasn’t a fair trial,” he said. “He was convicted and sentenced to life.”
The tension that led to the standoff began two years earlier at Wounded Knee, a village on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. In 1973, Native Americans occupied the village for 71 day to protest living conditions on the reservation.
“I went out to Wounded Knee while there was this occupation,” Glick said. “I went in during a truce between the Indians and federal marshals.”
Glick worked at a support center and wrote a newsletter that was sent across the country.
“I used a mimeograph machine,” he said. “That’s what we had back then. I was 24.”
Glick is taking his water with a little salt and potassium. He said this will keep him from fainting.
Daniel and Philip Berrigan, two renowned ‘60s anti-war activists got him started on water fasts, Glick said. They had been incarcerated together at the federal correctional facility, in Danbury, Conn., for activities related to their Vietnam War-era draft resistance methods. Glick went to prison, in 1971 serving a one-year term, for breaking into draft board offices and burning the records. He said that when other things do not work, fasting and disruptive actions are the last alternatives.
“From 1992 to 2001, I fasted each fall on this issue, the general issue of injustice toward Native Americans,” he said.
The 1992 fast lasted 42 days. He did it in Washington, D.C., with 14 others, on the Capitol steps.
It was after this fast that someone in the group got the idea to have 12-day fasts every October. These fasts would be for two reasons: the freeing of Peltier and the renaming of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day. Glick fasted for these reasons for nine years, until 2001.
Glick fasted for 18 days just before former President Bill Clinton left office, on Jan. 20, 2001.
“There was that opportunity, like now, for clemency,” he said. “But it didn’t happen. A couple of weeks ago, I thought there was this new potential.”
Glick has heard from people who are sympathetic to his concerns. Some people, he said, do not understand why he puts himself through the ordeal of fasting but they respect him. He said the respect that people give him provide him with an inner strength. This he appreciates.
“The primary reason for my fasting is to speak to people as strongly as I can about the Leonard Peltier situation and for people to take action,” he said. “I may fast until Obama leaves. I have to see how I feel. If he granted clemency today, I would be very happy and eat some of my wife’s soup.”