Activist Fasts to Pressure Obama to Grant Political Prisoner Leonard Peltier Executive Clemency

Posted Jan. 11, 2017

MP3 Interview with Ted Glick, lifelong peace and justice activist who began a water-only fast on Jan. 2, conducted by Melinda Tuhus


Native American activist Leonard Peltier and his supporters believe his last hope of leaving prison alive after 41 years lies with an order of executive clemency from President Barack Obama before he leaves office on Jan. 20. Peltier, a member of the American Indian Movement, was convicted of murdering two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation in South Dakota in 1975. No evidence has ever been presented tying him to the crime and he has always maintained his innocence.

Peltier’s trial was riddled with legally deceptive maneuvers by the prosecution side, including perjury, intimidation of witnesses, withholding of evidence and more. An appellate judge who had presided over one of Peltier’s appeals in the 1990s, stated upon retirement, that Peltier had not received a fair trial. And on Jan. 4, U.S. attorney James Reynolds, who was involved in the prosecution of Peltier's case, urged President Obama to grant clemency, stating it would be “in the best interest of justice in considering the totality of all matters involved."

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with lifelong peace and justice activist Ted Glick, who has participated in 17 fasts – one as long as 42 days – including many since 1992 calling for Peltier's release. Glick launched another water-only fast on Jan. 2, which he says will continue until either President Obama grants clemency or until he leaves office on Jan. 20. Here, Glick talks about his experiences fasting for a cause, the results he's seen from conducting previous fasts, and what he hopes to accomplish with this one.

TED GLICK: I have actually fasted for at least 12 days, I think, 17 times. Many of them, as a matter of fact, were between 1992 and 2001, where every year of those 10 years – well, 9 of those 10 years I did a 12-day fast with a group called People's Fast for Justice, where we were calling for Columbus Day to be renamed Indigenous People's Day and for freedom for Leonard Peltier. And the first year – 1992 – which of course was the 500th anniversary of Columbus arriving in the Americas – what is now the Americas – there was a 42-day fast that I was part of.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Fasting is a big sacrifice. You often don’t know what impact it has, but why do you do it?

TED GLICK: My fasts were usually – the first ones were not ones that I initiated – but I liked the idea. I liked the specifics of the particular idea at the particular time in history that they were proposed. As it's turned out, I'm now more open to doing this. I do think it's one tool that can be used to underline the urgency of a particular issue; that's clearly to me when you use it, when there's a really urgent issue. And there's no question that right now, it's a very urgent issue for Leonard Peltier and people who support him, and for indigenous people in general, because if he doesn't get out because of Obama granting him executive clemency, he probably won't survive, he'll probably die in prison; I think that's a realistic likelihood if he doesn't get out under Obama.

I’m fasting probably above every other reason to urge people who hear about this to do what they can to be contacting the White House and to be getting other people to contact the White House right now, in this very critical period, to urge President Obama to do the right thing.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Ted Glick, it's hard to say what kinds of actions lead to the desired changes, but do you feel like any of your fasts have been successful, however you define it?

TED GLICK: I think they've been successful. In the very first one that I did, in prison, related to Phil and Dan Berrigan, there were changes in the way the federal prison system dealt with prisoners as far as parole, which was a big part of the reason for the fast. And also, Dan Berrigan and Phil Berrigan got out of prison years earlier than they had been told by the parole board that they were going to; they had both been turned down, and the fast that Phil initiated led to them getting out of prison several years earlier than they would have otherwise, most likely, so that's probably one reason why I continue to do them, because I’ve seen success with them.

But beyond that, fasting is one tactic that you use when you are working on an issue as part of a movement. There are other tactics, of course, and oftentimes you really don't know whether a demonstration or a petition campaign or letter-writing or call-ins – it's hard to make a direct connection between which tactic was most effective. But whatever the tactic is, it's always important to be about building knowledge and consciousness on the part of people who didn't know about the issue being very much about movement-building, getting more people actively involved. And certainly I think fasting is very helpful along those lines, because when somebody does a long fast, it kind of makes people stop and think when they hear about it – why are they fasting? Why are they doing it? Why are they putting themselves through this? And it’s very helpful that way to get people to think about the issue or to think more about what they're doing on the issue, to encourage people to take stronger action.

BETWEEN THE LINES: So, fasting for Leonard's freedom is not a new thing for you. But say more about why you think he deserves clemency?

TED GLICK: The very specific issue is in the context of the Standing Rock uprising – the indigenous uprising, really, that's happening around the country, the connections that have been made as a result of that Standing Rock struggle. It is very consistent with that for Obama to grant executive clemency to Leonard Peltier, to show that he gets it. There are indigenous leaders from many of the indigenous nations who have called for Leonard Peltier's release. He has been in prison for 41 years. He is 72 years old. He is in very bad health, very serious health issues, and there is a great deal of legitimate outrage at the trial where he was convicted. There were all kinds of irregularities. The FBI definitely engaged in lies, in intimidation of witnesses and so on. That's documented in many places. So, long ago he should have at the very least have had a fair trial – and that never happened – so there's lots of reasons why he should be let out.

Find more information at Ted Glick's website at

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