Approximately 60 people gathered Tuesday for a “people’s board meeting” in front of the SF Pride office at Market and Pearl Street, to protest the Pride board’s revocation of Bradley Manning’s grand marshal election and its lack of accountability to the community.
As previously reported, last week more than 100 community members attempted to attend a Pride board meeting and give public comment about their support for the Wikileaks whistleblower. That meeting ended in chaos after only a handful of people were allowed in to speak, with board treasurer David Currie promising that a new meeting would be scheduled in a larger venue.
On Sunday the board cancelled a previously scheduled May 14 membership meeting, stating that its Manning decision was firm and a public meeting would not take place until after the June 30 Pride fest.
Undeterred, community members came together anyway to shame the absent board members — represented by empty chairs on the sidewalk — and offer the public testimony they were previously denied.
“Bradley Manning is one of the heroes of this generation of soldiers,” said Michael Wong of SF Veterans for Peace. “Soldiers have a duty to report wrongdoing.”
Njobe, an organizer of the SF Dyke March, encouraged people not to support Pride, urging, “Don’t give them your money!” While some activists have called for a boycott of this year’s festival, others favor a large pro-Manning contingent in the parade.
Tommi Avicolli Mecca reminded listeners that many of the people who started the Gay Liberation movement in the late 1960s came from the Vietnam antiwar movement. “We have long history of supporting people who used radical means to change society,” he said.
Kyles DeVries announced that a group of radical faeries have named Manning the first “Queen of the Faeries,” after which many in the assembled crowd moved to the LGBT Center across the street to participate in a Harvey Milk Club PAC forum on Pride and Manning.
Supervisor David Campos, District 9, has penned a letter to SF Pride asking for greater accountability and a better response to the community regarding the Bradley Manning decision. Much of Pride’s funding is dependent on City support which requires transparency in practice and deeds to qualify for those monies. Will this debacle effect Pride’s SF supplied budget? At post time there hasn’t been an official response from the Pride Board.
Here is Supervisor Campos’ letter to the Board:
To Executive Director Earl Plante, Board President Lisa Williams and members of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Pride:
I am writing to express my concern over the recent actions of the leadership of Pride in the wake of the controversy surrounding the naming of Private Manning as a Grand Marshall for this year’s parade. The decision to rescind this honor is unprecedented and the community has every right to be concerned about the consequences of this abrupt, top-down directive. Most importantly, however, is the obligation Pride has to be accountable, transparent and representative to the diverse LGBT community it serves. As an organization which receives City funding, Pride has a responsibility to operate with transparency and accountability, and to allow for timely appropriate discussions with the community as needed. The failure of Pride leadership to do so in this circumstance is contrary to this responsibility.
Controversy is not a new phenomenon to Pride festivities, nor is it a valid reason for Pride not to fulfill its responsibilities to the broader LGBT community. The recent statement made by Pride that the discussion on this matter is “closed” is disturbing, and may serve to further divide the community and foster long-lasting resentments.
I urge Pride to hold an open community discussion on the matter of Private Manning’s awarding and rescission as Grand Marshall, and ask that this meeting be held as soon as possible and before the June Pride festivities. We must remember that Pride was born as a tribute to the courage of the LGBT community, and walking away from this discussion is contrary to that legacy.
Supervisor David Campos