Dennis Banks, co-founder of the American Indian Movement and vice-presidential candidate recently visited California to promote the campaign and speak out in solidarity with Native and working-class struggles.
Banks is U.S. vice-presidential candidate for the Peace and Freedom Party in California, and in Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado for the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
On Sept. 30, Banks spoke to a large and enthusiastic group of supporters at the San Francisco campaign headquarters, about his lifelong struggle against the racism directed against Native people in the U.S. He spoke plainly but with great conviction, power and humor. In particular, he shared his experience of the disgusting programs forcibly taking Native American children from their families and raising them in an environment divorced from their culture. The schools’ objective, akin to genocide, was to prohibit their language, spirituality and community, often using brutality.
The kidnappings of Native children lasted as late as the 1970s under the government’s program. Banks told the sad story of how letters and communications from his mother, who had desperately sought to be reunited with her son, were hidden from him and never delivered by the schools—only to be discovered several years after her death.
Banks also shared his experiences of the historic mass movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s land, which he described as the largest spontaneous Native movement he has ever seen. The encampment has grown to thousands of people, and Banks is headed back to the camp after the California tour.
In the course of the weekend, the La Riva/Banks campaign reached thousands of people from northern Ukiah to mid-state Santa Cruz to Los Angeles. After the packed campaign forum, the candidates and a team of supporters went to San Quentin prison, which houses 730 male inmates on death row, more than any other U.S. prison, and is the largest death-row population in the western hemisphere. There they held a press conference urging people to vote Yes on Prop. 62 to abolish the death penalty and No on Prop. 66, which would speed up executions. While at the prison, the candidates met with family members of prisoners.
Then it was on to Ukiah at the annual Indian Fry Bread Contest Festival, where Dennis Banks received a great reception from the hundreds of attendees. In addition to speaking about the historic Standing Rock resistance, the candidates urged support to the clemency campaign for Native political prisoner Leonard Peltier and the Dec. 4-10 week for Peltier in Washington, D.C. Many people said they will vote for La Riva and Banks.
The campaign team also met with workers and community members at Hopland Native reservation, who learned for the first time of the socialist campaign in the afternoon.
On Sunday, Empire Files journalist Abby Martin and producer Mike Prysner interviewed Banks and La Riva for the program on Latin America-based Telesur TV.
On Oct. 3, Banks helped lead a press conference and procession to the Pacific ocean near Monterey, to support Measure Z, a local referendum that will ban fracking and new oil-well development. From Standing Rock to Monterey, the environmental struggle against the fossil fuel corporations is gaining ground.
PSL vice-presidential candidate Eugene Puryear, who is on the ballot with La Riva in New Jersey, Washington state and Louisiana, is now on an eastern tour. You can follow the PSL campaign on-line and volunteer by going to www.GloriaLaRiva4President.com .