AU promotes clemency for convicted cop killer with statue

American University in Washington, D.C. has installed a new statue on campus to raise awareness for a convicted cop-killer’s clemency campaign.

Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist, was convicted for the murder of two FBI agents in 1977, when he was involved in a shootout on the Pine Ridge Reservation, fled the scene, and was put on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive list. In the years following, he gave several conflicting alibis as to his whereabouts on the morning of the shootout.

The conviction has been criticized by groups such as Amnesty International, the Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, and the Soviet Peace Committee.

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According to a university news release, “the statue is part of a movement to raise awareness for Peltier's pardon request,” described as a “push by supporters in the final days of Barack Obama’s presidency.”

Both supporters and opponents were vocal on the AU Facebook page, with some expressing disgust that the university would host the statue, while others applauded the move as a stand for “racial justice,” even suggesting that Peltier’s guilt was merely a corollary question.

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“So many people wrongfully convicted in the history of the US, and AU decides to champion the cause of a convicted cop-killer,” one commenter lamented.

“A disgrace...Peltier is a convicted murderer, who is owed no place on the AU campus,” stated another.

Others, however, agreed with the installation of the statue, with one actually arguing that Peltier was justified in killing police officers because of the “historical genocide” perpetrated against Native Americans by the federal government.

“I applaud AU for this. Peltier is a champion of Native American rights. All those who have attacked him on this comments section fail to recognize the legitimacy of militant resistance to oppression in the context of a historical genocide,” the comment contends. “How a person can become indignant at possible involvement in the death of two FBI agents and not at the near-annihilation and continued oppression of an entire people by a racist government is unfathomable.”

The statue has made its way across the country from California to American University on a journey that has also included a stop at the Standing Rock Reservation. It will be on display in front of American’s Museum at the Kazen Arts Center until April.

UPDATE: American University provided Campus Reform with a statement clarifying that it "regards this statue as an exhibited piece of art and takes no position on the advocacy movement," adding that "AU's Katzen Museum is hosting the artist's statue as an exhibit; it is not a permanent installation."

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