Over 1000 March for Manning at SF Pride

Written by Guest Contributor. Posted in Events, Law, News, Politics, Technology, War

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Published on July 02, 2013 with 1 Comment

As many as 1100 marched in support of whistleblower Bradley Manning during Sunday's SF Pride Parade.  Photos by Ida Mojadad.

As many as 1100 marched in support of whistleblower Bradley Manning during Sunday’s SF Pride Parade. Photos by Ida Mojadad.

By Ida Mojadad, guest contributor.

July 2, 2013

An estimated 1,100 supporters marched at SF Pride Parade Sunday honoring gay WikiLeaks whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, despite the Pride board of directors’ refusal to name him 2013 Grand Marshal.

The controversy over Manning blew up in recent weeks, as word leaked that Pride’s board had initially named Manning the Grand Marshal, and then the organization quickly retracted the decision, saying the famous WikiLeaks whistleblower was too controversial. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos and California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano lambasted Pride’s decision at a press conference in early June, supporting Manning.

The contingent spanned two blocks as it made its way down Market Street comprising a coalition of organizations including Gays Without Borders, the Harvey Milk LBGT Democratic Club, Code Pink, and SEIU Local 1021. Ahead of the flash mob dancing to Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us,” Daniel Ellsberg, 82, who famously released top military documents known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971, rode as Manning’s stand-in.

'Pentagon Papers' whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg stood in for Manning.

‘Pentagon Papers’ whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg stood in for Manning.

Supporters chanted, “They say court martial, we say Grand Marshal!” and dubbed Manning as the “Peoples’ Grand Marshal” where SF Pride wouldn’t.

Although he was originally slated to lead the parade, a group of gay service members caught wind of the plans and persuaded the board to announce April 26 that Manning was out.

“Even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform – and countless others, military and civilian alike – will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride,” said SF Pride board president Lisa Williams in a press statement.  “It is, and would be, an insult to everyone, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country.”

Supervisor David Campos wrangled with the board to reinstate Manning but, in the end, the board ruled Manning wasn’t local and therefore didn’t qualify.

“It was more of a political statement – they don’t want to rock the boat,” said Manny Duaca, who danced in the Hawaiian Airlines contingent. “But this presence is good and gives [Manning] more visibility.”

Manning took responsibility for releasing more than 700,000 classified military and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in 2010 that lead to his arrest.  He is currently being tried at Fort Meade, Maryland. In a March 1 pretrial statement, Manning said his decision to blow the whistle was intended to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment every day,” Manning said.

Manning’s release of a treasure trove of diplomatic cables embarrassed the U.S. Government and is credited with triggering a wave of revolutions known as the “Arab Spring” against corrupt regimes in the Middle-East and North Africa.

“We’re proud of his actions,” said Code Pink member Holly Severson, 47. “He knew it was important and was brave enough, even when he knew he wouldn’t get away with it.”

However, some said supporting a controversial figure might have hampered an especially jubilant SF Pride Parade.

“I see some negative things here in a happy atmosphere – that’s not the best way to get people to listen,” said Oregon resident and Sierra Club summer intern Daniel Espedes, 21.

Manning supporters marched SF Pride in 2011 and 2012, but in smaller groups estimated at a one hundred marchers.

“It’s always been kind of small, but it grows every year,” said Nate Pitts, 33, who “always felt [Pride] was shallow” but joined the parade the last three years to support Manning.

“There is a lot of positive reaction” from the crowd, he said.

Berkeley resident Xan Joi, 63, recognized the same issue. “Who wants to be reminded of reality when there’s so much happiness?” she said.

“I’ll be ready to celebrate when all of us are free. He’s our hero,” added Joi. “Every LBGT person is controversial.”

More photos

Supporters of Bradley Manning held signs that read "Free Bradley."

Supporters of Bradley Manning held signs that read “Free Bradley.”

Supporters held a large banner that read "Free Bradley Manning - Accused WikiLeaks whistleblower."

Supporters held a large banner that read “Free Bradley Manning – Accused WikiLeaks whistleblower.”

Beadley Manning supporters held a sign hat read, "Pride in our whistleblower."

Beadley Manning supporters held a sign hat read, “Pride in our whistleblower.”

  • “I also believed the detailed analysis of the data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment every day,” Manning said.

    Manning doesn’t seem to think there is a serious terrorist threat to the US from the kind of people who did the Boston marathon bombing, the Fort Hood shootings, the Times Square would-be bomber, the underwear bomber who tried to bring down an airliner, and 9/11 itself, to mention a few. Do he and his supporters have a different “analysis of the data” to show that the threat doesn’t really exist?