A group of gay activists held a protest yesterday against the San Francisco Pride Committee’s rescinding of naming as a Grand Marshal openly gay whistleblower, Bradley Manning, a US Army soldier who was arrested in 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website Wikileaks. Manning was charged with a number of offenses including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. The 25 year old’s trial is expected to begin in June 2013.
The protest was organized by social justice activists Michael Petrelis, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and Lisa Geduldig. “Our message to SF Pride is that they should make Manning a Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride March and Celebration because of his brave act of whistleblowing against the military industrial complex,” said Petrelis. “We are fed up with marriage and military concerns sucking the oxygen out of what used to be a queer movement and Pride March and Celebration about social justice for queers,” Petrelis added. Some don’t think Manning should be a Grand Marshal of the parade, albeit in absentia—that he doesn’t represent or further the causes of LGBT people. Co-organizer Geduldig pointed out, “He’s an antiwar hero, a whistleblower who is gay.” According to Rainey Reitman, a founder and steering committee member of Bradley Manning Support Network who spoke at the rally, Bradley Manning was very active in the fight to end Dont Ask Don’t Tell, marching and speaking out on television to repeal the antiquated law.
In a statement from Lisa Williams, San Francisco Pride Board President, rescinding the Grand Marshal honor to Manning she says, “Even the hint of support for actions which placed in harm’s 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.” This claim has been disproven extensively as noted by Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian who wrote a scathing piece regarding the boards actions titled, “Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced: A seemingly trivial controversy reveals quite a bit about pervasive political values”
Daniel Ellsberg, who helped strengthen public opposition to the Vietnam War in 1971 by leaking secret documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, spoke out in support of Manning during the rally. Ellsberg was slated to sit in for Manning during the parade as Manning is currently being held in prison awaiting is June trial.