SEATTLE (CN) — Imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier has sued Washington state for removing his paintings from a public exhibition on state property.
Peltier and his son Chauncey Peltier claim in Federal Court that state officials violated Peltier’s civil rights by removing four paintings from a Native American art show in the lobby of the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries building.
Chauncey Peltier runs an art gallery in Portland, Oregon and loaned the paintings for the Celebrate Native American Heritage month art show in November 2015, according to the March 21 lawsuit.
“The paintings allowed the public to see a side of Leonard Peltier not generally reported in the media or other sources,” the complaint states.
“The paintings themselves were not of a particularly controversial nature, but were a major part of Leonard Peltier’s public expression on American Indian and related themes, and a crucial part of his petitioning the government for redress of grievances.”
The Peltiers say that two retired FBI agents, defendants Edward Woods and Larry Langberg, wrote “vicious and libelous letters,” pressuring officials to remove the paintings without public process.
Chauncey Peltier later displayed the artwork at a food co-op.
The Peltiers accuse the Department of Labor and Industries and Governor Jay Inslee of violations of the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment, and Woods and Langberg of defamation and economic interference. They seek compensatory and punitive damages.
They are represented by Lawrence Hildes, of Bellingham.
Peltier, 72, was a leader of the American Indian Movement. He was sentenced to two life terms for the murder of two FBI agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The verdict was highly controversial, and Peltier is regarded as a political prisoner by millions of people in the United States and around the world. He is incarcerated in Florida. His most recent petition for clemency was denied by President Obama before he left office.