A group of people assembled for the annual Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Fairbanks rallied Saturday in support of four Native men they believe are wrongly imprisoned for murder.
George Freese, Eugene Vent, Marvin Roberts and Kevin Pease are serving long sentences for the 1997 beating of Fairbanks teen John Hartman.
The so called “Fairbanks Four” case jumped to center stage last month, when the Alaska Innocence Project filed requests for post conviction relief based on new information showing others are responsible.
The call for their exoneration took on a broader voice at the weekend rally.
Dozens waved signs, banged drums and sang in solidarity with the Fairbanks Four. Native American rock star Robbie Romero of New Mexico joined Alaska Natives in support of the jailed men.
“I’m honored to be here with you today, and I’m honored to stand up and speak out for these 4 men who have been falsely incarcerated,” Romero said.
Romero encouraged a peaceful approach, a sentiment echoed by Athabascan David Solomon, who warned ralliers not to let anger about what’s happened dictate their actions.
“We have to do it in a good way. Don’t let the white man make you go off the wrong track, and be ___off and end up in jail. We have to do it in loving way and a good way,” Solomon said.
Another speaker, David Harrison of the village of Chickaloon called on Alaska tribes and villages to come together to free the Fairbanks Four.
“If we continue to struggle as one village or one tribe, we’re not going to go anywhere,” Harrison said. “But if we assert as nations, things will change.”
Saturday’s rally was staged outside the Carlson Center, where Alaska Federation of Natives Convention delegates unanimously passed a resolution in support of re-examination of evidence in the Fairbanks Four case, to see that justice is done.
The resolution was submitted by the Tanana Chiefs Conference, which has offered a reward for information leading exoneration of the men.