[sixties-l] Fwd: Waiting for an old acquaintance

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/30/00

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    >Waiting for an old acquaintance
    >By Carol Kreck
    >Denver Post Staff Writer
    >Dec. 25, 2000 - The world awaits word of possible presidential pardon for
    >American Indian leader Leonard Peltier, but few listen more acutely than
    >Denver's Ernesto Vigil.
    >Peltier was convicted of the June 1975 shooting deaths of two FBI agents at
    >the Jumping Bull Compound on South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation during a
    >six-hour firefight. One of 48 suspects, he fled and wasn't captured until
    >1976 in Alberta, Canada.
    >His case has become a cause celebre. Peltier, with the backing of prominent
    >figures around the world, maintains his innocence; FBI agents, furious that
    >a pardon is possible in the waning days of the Clinton administration,
    >marched on the White House this month.
    >When he was on the run, Peltier sought support from the Denver-based
    >activist Chicano organization Crusade for Justice. Vigil, the crusade's
    >liaison to the American Indian Movement, met with him on the Rosebud
    >Reservation in South Dakota, and Peltier twice came here. Details of those
    >visits are included in Vigil's book, "The Crusade for Justice: Chicano
    >Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent," published last year by the
    >University of Wisconsin Press.
    >Vigil remembers those visits well.
    >"He believed they would not take him alive," said the author, whose book is
    >a history of the Chicano Civil Rights movement in 1960s Denver led by
    >Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales. Or, if Peltier were to survive capture, he
    >believed "he could not get a fair trial."
    >Crusade and American Indian Movement leaders met to weigh options, including
    >a crusade proposal that Peltier flee through Mexico to Cuba.
    >Peltier spoke freely of what happened that day and his role in the shootout.
    >"He owned up to being involved in the firefight - he was not ashamed of
    >that, not embarrassed," Vigil said. "He didn't feel that what any of them
    >had done was wrong in as much as they believed they were under attack and
    >were defending themselves.
    >"What he said was very clear, that he was not among those involved in firing
    >those fatal shots."
    >Vigil's faith in Peltier's innocence remained steadfast; Vigil was arrested
    >by a Denver police intelligence unit at a demonstration for Peltier in the
    >spring of 1999.
    >In the ensuing 24 years of Peltier's imprisonment at Leavenworth, Kan.,
    >others took up his cause, including Nobel laureates Jose Ramos Horta, who
    >worked for peace in East Timor; the Dalai Lama; Northern Ireland Peace
    >Movement founders Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams; Nelson
    >Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; the late Mother Teresa;
    >Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala; former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey
    >Clark, Coretta Scott King; the World Council of Churches; and the European
    >Meanwhile, 8,000 active and retired FBI agents recently signed a petition
    >opposing Peltier's release.
    >In his book, Vigil links the FBI with three crucial events of the 1970s: the
    >crusade-supported AIM occupation of Wounded Knee, which began Feb. 27, 1973;
    >the bloody confrontation between Denver police and the Crusade for Justice
    >on March 17, 1973; and the firefight at the Jumping Bull compound on Pine
    >Ridge, which resulted in Peltier's imprisonment.
    >The crux of his book is the St. Patrick's Day incident that left three
    >Denver officers wounded. Police killed Vigil's friend, Luis "Junior"
    >Martinez. Vigil was shot in the back.
    >Even in the midst of tumultuous times, Vigil said he was aware he was living
    >in the vortex of history, a favorite subject of his at Manual High School,
    >where he graduated in 1966.
    >Vigil was recruited for Princeton, but he didn't get in. So he went to
    >Goddard College in Vermont, where he got a full ride. He had an idea he
    >might be a novelist, or a lawyer.
    >Goddard changed his perception of the world. "Almost nobody at Goddard had
    >seen a Mexican before - they thought I was white," he said. "To be around
    >white people who do not have an ingrained bias against you was a unique
    >"It was a major difference not to be looked down on by your peers. Being
    >removed from this environment gave me an opportunity to look from without
    >and understand it in a completely different way. I realized it doesn't have
    >to be this way. It was made this way."
    >Nine months after his first college year, Vigil was back in Denver and
    >became shocked at the number of friends already locked up, going to court,
    >unemployed or getting killed in Vietnam. He returned to Goddard for a month,
    >marched on the Pentagon and dropped out of school. After a brief stay in
    >Philadelphia, he returned to Denver. His own trouble with the draft was
    >looming, and he went to see Corky Gonzales.
    >"Corky's name was known throughout the barrio. I remember hearing his name
    >in middle school," Vigil said. The Crusade for Justice was the only
    >organization taking a stand against the war in Vietnam for the same reasons
    >he opposed it: "It was unconstitutional, a violation of Vietnamese
    >sovereignty and poor Americans were cannon fodder."
    >Gonzales was a poet, a boxer, a bail bondsman, a bar owner. He not only
    >opposed the war, but was a voice for change in the barrio. Two institutions
    >were sticking points: "The failure of schools to serve our youth, and
    >violation of our rights by those supposed to uphold the law," Vigil said.
    >Vigil brought his own desire for change, but having that validated by the
    >crusade had tremendous impact.
    >Vigil joined the crusade, a commitment interrupted briefly by his stay for
    >draft evasion at the Federal Correctional Facility in Jefferson County. "I
    >met a better class of person in prison. When I came out, I missed a lot of
    >Intense activism followed through the 1960s and 1970s, including some 30
    >arrests. He regrets only that he was not a better husband and father during
    >those times; his interest in history never wavered. Gonzales worried that
    >stories of their people were never written down, and Vigil took time to ask
    >his father about the family history.
    >It was an oral history, he said, but as he researched details, he was amazed
    >at the stories' accuracy. Those stories may be the subject of his next book.
    >All Vigils are descended from one family who traveled through Mexico to what
    >is now New Mexico in 1695, he said. There were five brothers: Pedro,
    >Francisco, Manuel, Domingo and Juan. Vigil is descended from Domingo.
    >Nor is he the family's first rebel. Great-great-great-grandfather Pablo
    >Montoya was a leader with Jose Gonzales, an Indian, in the Chimayo rebellion
    >of 1837. Gonzales was elected governor of New Mexico by the rebels, "the
    >first elected governor of New Mexico and the first and only Indian
    >governor," Vigil said.
    >On Jan. 19, 1847, Montoya led the Taos Rebellion, which was crushed the
    >following month. He was hung in the Taos plaza, the first rebel leader
    >executed, one day after his capture.

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