In December 2016, American University (AU) in Washington, D.C., erected a statue honoring Leonard Peltier, who was convicted of killing FBI Agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams back in 1975.
It was after clemency activists urged the school to put it up, claiming that Peltier never received a proper trial before being sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for his crimes.
But it wasn't long before the FBI, showing it has backs of its deceased agents, stepped in. The agency is calling for the statue to come down.
Thomas O'Connor, President of the FBI Agents Association, sent a letter to AU president Neil Kerwin, asking the school to promptly remove the statue. In the letter, O'Conner lists the numerous offenses which Peltier committed against the slain agents.
Peltier was a Native American activist who, during a shootout in South Dakota, killed the two FBI agents.
Clemency advocates have been calling for a President to pardon Peltier for decades. In 2000, FBI agents urged President Clinton not to do so.
In recent years, Peltier supporters have urged people, through FreePeletierNow.org, to request that President Obama grant the pardon before leaving office later this month.
Thomas O'Connor concludes his letter to AU President Kerwin by recognizing the right to free speech, but also highlighting that free speech is never free from consequences.
“AU should not use its property to celebrate the man convicted of murdering FBI Special Agents Coler and Williams, nor should AU have announced the display of the statute by disseminating misleading propaganda from activists supporting Peltier.”
American University released a statement on Monday announcing that it's agreed to the FBI Agent Association's request—the offensive statue will promptly be taken down. AU writes:
“The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken.”
Tuesday evening, The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund sent a letter to the senior legal counsel of American University, on behalf of Rigo 23, the artist of the controversial Leonard Peltier statue. The letter challenges American University decision to “capitulate to the FBI Agent's Association's demand that it censor artwork and remove his statue.”