Mass Support for Manning at Pride’s Public Forum, Board Decision by June 7

SF Pride Board gathered to listen to community feed back regarding the Bradley Manning issue on Fri. May 31st at the Castro's MCC. Photo: Liz Highleyman

SF Pride Board gathered to listen to community feed back regarding the Bradley Manning issue on Fri. May 31st at the Castro’s MCC. Photo: Liz Highleyman

More than fifty community members spoke in favor of reinstating PFC Bradley Manning as a San Francisco Pride grand marshal at a public meeting Friday in the Castro. After hearing the crowd’s overwhelmingly support – as well as a plea from District 9 Supervisor David Campos-the Pride board said it would reconsider its position and make a decision within seven days.

Manning, the openly Queer soldier who released thousands of U.S. government documents through Wikileaks, is currently before a court martial at Fort Mead, Md. As previously reported, Manning’s election as community grand marshal was announced in April, but the board quickly rescinded the honor, stating that it was a mistake and “even the hint of support” for Manning’s actions “will not be tolerated.”

More than 100 community members attempted to attend a May 7 Pride board meeting, but only a handful were allowed to enter. The board cancelled its scheduled May 14 meeting, stating that its decision was final and a public meeting to discuss the Manning nomination would not take place until after the June 30 Pride fest. Amid the outcry that followed, Sup. Campos sent a letter to the board requesting a community meeting before the celebration.

A crowd numbering approximately 150-including six members of Castro Community on Patrol and an SFPD officer to monitor security -packed the Metropolitan Community Church for Friday’s forum, moderated by KQED journalist Scott Shafer.

SF Pride President, Lisa Williams flanked by Pride's CEO Earl Plante

SF Pride President, Lisa Williams flanked by Pride’s CEO Earl Plante. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Distrust of SF Pride was evident throughout, as board members and CEO Earl Plante made evasive or contradictory statements. Plante’s opening statement that the board has “undertaken a full review of nomination process” was greeted with derision, prompting MCC pastor Victor Floyd to call for everyone to respect each other.

Fifty people-ranging from LGBT veterans to members of the Spartacus youth club and ANSWER-spoke in support of Manning, with several demanding that the board reinstate him as community grand marshal, give him an alternative honor, or move the Bradley Manning support contingent to the front of the parade.

Joey Cain, the former Pride board president who nominated Manning for community grand marshal, acknowledged that the board was “going through hell,” but said they needed to be honest with the community about how events transpired.

Joey Cain whose nomination started the SF Pride/Manning as Grand Marshal addresses the Board. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Joey Cain whose nomination started the SF Pride/Manning as Grand Marshal addresses the Board. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Responding to critics who say Manning shouldn’t be a marshal because his actions are unrelated to Gay issues, Cain said, “For me, absolutely the core of the LGBT movement is coming out-we are truth tellers.”

Stephen Funk, a Gay veteran who went to jail after refusing to deploy to Iraq, added that he knew from experience that Manning was “getting it worse because he’s Queer.”

Long-time activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca was among several speakers who brought up the radical origins of Pride and how it has become conservative and corporate over the years. “[The board's decision] was a slap in the face to everything that Pride once stood for,” he said to a standing ovation. “We saw ourselves as part of a movement for social and economic justice. Bradley Manning’s election as grand marshal is in keeping with this fine tradition.”

“This is an opportunity for us to reflect on where Pride has gone completely off the rails,”concurred Becka Shertzer. “Bradley Manning performed the most courageous act as a person, as a soldier, and as a Queer person, and that’s what Pride is about for me.”

Jesse Oliver Sanford and others also raised the issue of Pride Board membership, noting that it was no longer possible to apply online via the SF Pride website and implying that the board was trying to deter new members. Plante and board president Lisa Williams said they were unaware of any changes to the process.

GOPTranny blogger, Katherine Kline thanks the Board for disinviting Manning. Photo: Liz Highleymen

GOPTranny blogger, Katherine Kline thanks the Board for disinviting Manning. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Three speakers approved of the board’s decision about the Manning nomination, including Chris Bowman of the Log Cabin Republicans, GOP Tranny blogger Katherine Kline, and Gay veteran Paul Cummings.

“I had a successful career by staying in the closet,” said Cummings, a retired Navy officer with top-secret clearance. “Bradley Manning has hurt Gay people. He has reinforced the idea that Gays are a security risk.”

After two hours worth of two-minute comments, Daniel Kim accused Plante of being a murderer, at which point Plante yelled back and declared the meeting over. A screaming match broke out among several attendees, and moderator Shafer had little success bringing the meeting back to order.

At that point Sup. Campos took the floor in an attempt to restore calm. He began by speaking about the flawed process and the need for the Pride board to be responsive to the community, but surprised many by expressing his individual support for Manning.

“You do not necessarily have to focus on Queer issues to be a Queer hero,” Campos said. “War and peace and how our country does for policy implicates all of us, Queer people included.” He ended by asking the board to find some way to honor Manning. “Failing to do something in response to overwhelming support will hurt this organization,” he said to thunderous applause. “I beg you to reconsider.”

Sup. Campos addressing the audience and Board at the Bradley Manning public forum on May. 31st. Photo:  Liz Highleymen

Sup. Campos addressing the audience and Board at the Bradley Manning public forum on May. 31st. Photo: Liz Highleyman

Plante and Williams insisted that the board was not going to make a decision about Manning on the spot, but committed to issuing a decision within seven days after treasurer David Currie and other board members spoke in favor of the deadline.

Currie said that he had learned a lot about Bradley Manning and about Gay history, and “heard very loudly that there’s a lot of support for Manning.” He also noted that the board had received no pressure-and in fact, no comments one way or another-from Pride’s corporate sponsors.

“You make Bradley Manning any kind of grand marshal and you’re going to be heroes in this community,” Cain said on a concluding note.

SF Pride Logo“Don’t hide between your technicalities,” quipped Gay veteran John Caldera. “We are magical people-with a snap of your fingers you can make Bradley Manning a grand marshal.”

The SF Pride board’s decision is expected on June 7. A teach-in and discussion on Bradley Manning will take place on June 8 from 4-6 pm at 2278 Market Street (former Tower Records soon to be CVS next to Café Flore).

Liz Highleyman

Liz Highleyman is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist and medical writer focusing on HIV and hepatitis, sexuality, activism, and civil liberties.

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14 Responses

  1. rblack says:

    I don’t know about the various politics that goes along with this, but it seems to me that this decision was made because of corporate pushback.

    I imagine it would be impossible to put on the Pride party without corporate involvement, but is there a way for the Pride parade to disconnect itself from corporate sponsorship and just be paid for by the city and donations?

    How does one become a member of the Pride board and is it a paid position?

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  2. Patrick says:

    The pushback comes from members of the LGBT community who serve with distinction in the US Armed Forces, and do not want to be associated with Manning.

    There are some in our community, like Tommi Avicolla Mecca who see LGBT issues as part of a broader left wing, anti-war, anti-corporate agenda and want to co-opt Pride to serve their purposes, which is currently the Manning case. I remember in the 1970′s being lectured from the main stage on why LGBT people should support the Maoist Sendero Luminoso guerillas in Peru.

    While many early activists like Tommi held those beliefs today, they do not account for the majority. Consider that District 8′s representative on the Board of Supervisors have been for the past few years in the moderate camp. I hope that the Pride board sticks to its guns and does not let the parade be hijacked by the cause du jour of the left.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

    • Waiyde Palmer says:

      I’d love to see your proof beyond the election of Scott Wiener as Sup of Dist. 8 that ‘most’ people in the LGBT community aren’t broad supporters of anti-war/anti-corporate mentalities and immersed in every social justice issue facing this country and the world. I also believe that number far outstrips the GOProud/Log Cabin gays or silent majority that never seem to materialize beyond blog comment sections.

      I think there is a broader spectrum of political ideals within the LGBT community than ever before-but-as this story indicated if the ‘majority’ were for banning Manning they certainly didn’t show up to voice their beliefs. Three people-all self identified as Republicans did-and everyone else spoke to Manning being allowed to be Hon. Grand Marshal.

      If most LGBT people are moderates as you have claimed than where are they and what are their beliefs and goals for us as a people politically and socially? Why are they always no where to be found when it comes time to do all the hard work involved in politics?

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

      • uppityfag says:

        I was expecting to see Zoe Dunning there and she didn’t show. If people support the action of the SF Pride board they should show up.

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    • uppityfag says:

      Really now. Are you concerned that the SF Pride parade is going to turn into a Fidel Castro party unless Scott Wiener holds the line on moderate politics??

      Release your sphincter, mother.

      The REDS aren’t going to attack any time soon. I think the future of this million dollar party is a safe bet. Too many Democrats have too much invested in the propaganda parade for it to go too far afield.

      It’s gonna be ok.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

    • rblack says:

      I agree that Manning never should have been elected Grand Marshal. I personally feel that Grand Marshal should be reserved for someone in the LGBT (and the others =P ) community and /or our straight allies that did something in the past year to further equal rights.

      However, I have no problem with Manning be honored some other way.

      What I find so wonderful and cherish about being a member of this community is that we have a big tent. I don’t always have to agree with you or Waiyde or Roy or Luis etc…on every issue, but we can try to respect each other’s opinion and try to understand where we are each coming from.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

  3. A parade celebrating diversity that starts excluding voices, or demarking the voices that are approved to be heard, is missing something important about its mission, in my opinion. I want to enjoy a weekend of festivities, one facilitated, not obstructed, by Pride’s board, and I would like it to be as inclusive of as many points of view as possible, not just the ones I agree with. Institutional censorship is a far cry from why most people march, unless it is to protest being told what to think.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

    • Vera – I think you have hit on a very big possibility. The parade has been for many years boring, too long, and stale. What better way to spruce things up than to have a community grand marshal debacle? Who better to elect to the position than Manning and then to make a very public retraction? I’m not sure who dreamed this up but they did a great job of getting community involvement.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. Daviator says:

    Personally, I would boycott the parade and festival if this traitor to our nation was honored. I find those who wish to honor someone who committed treasonous acts despicable.

    I suspect that many, and perhaps even most, others feel this way, but aren’t interested in protesting at Pride board meetings and the like.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  5. rdc says:

    Pride’s most recent final decision has completely failed to represent the gay community at large with this one. Not even a tidbit of decency regarding the importance of this young valuable gay man of conscience. Am I surprised not at all, I attended the forum, if you are the faces of Stonewall
    I worry for our future as it appears our past struggles have become meaningless. Pride could not be more uninformed on this one, simply wrong.
    However, peace and justice always finds it’s voice, sadly Pride was not listening.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  1. June 4, 2013
  2. June 4, 2013

    [...] the SF Pride saga continues. As Liz Highleyman reports at CastroBiscuit, there was a strong turnout at the public meeting held last Friday with the Pride board. The board [...]

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