SF Pride Final Decision-Manning Out as Marshal, Advocates Not Surprised
The San Francisco Pride board announced on Friday its decision not to recognize Pfc. Bradley Manning as a grand marshal for this year’s parade, angering but not surprising community activists.
Manning, the openly queer soldier who released thousands of U.S. government documents through Wikileaks, was chosen as a community grand marshal by an “electoral college” of former marshals. Two days after his selection was announced in April, the board rescinded the honor, stating that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s actions “will not be tolerated.” The board and SF Pride CEO Earl Plante later cited obscure organizational policies to claim that Manning was not eligible for community grand marshal because he is not local.
The board agreed to reconsider after a heated community meeting on May 31, at which more than fifty people spoke in support of Manning, while only three supported the dis-invite. Speakers suggested that the board reinstate Manning as grand marshal, come up with an alternative honor, or move the Bradley Manning support contingent to the front of the parade. Plante and board chair Lisa Williams said a decision would be forthcoming within seven days.
Manning supporters held a late afternoon press conference on June 7 outside Pride headquarters on Market Street in anticipation of the decision, but as the presser kicked off at 5:30 pm, the board still had not issued a statement.
“This shows the contempt with which they hold the LGBT community,” Joey Cain, the former SF Pride board president who nominated Manning, told a crowd of about 25 reporters and community members. “This is absolutely unacceptable.”
Cain pointed out that SF Pride’s Policy and Procedures Manual contains rules regarding selection of grand marshals and “Pink Brick” recipients that the board itself has violated, including naming more than the prescribed number of community grand marshals.
“I think it makes it pretty clear that adherence to policy was never the real issue regarding Bradley Manning’s election by the Electoral Collage,” Cain concluded. “The Pride leadership overturned that election because of the pressure they got from groups outside of San Francisco, period.”
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano also addressed the crowd. “In the DNA of the Gay march, there is always contention,” he said. “Whether Bradley Manning gets to be a ‘grand marshal’ or not, he’s part of the expression of who we are. Bradley Manning may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but that doesn’t matter…that’s our strength.”
“Irrespective of what you think about Bradley Manning, there a fundamental problem all of us should have with way this has been handled — it’s a classic example of how not to deal with a crisis,” said District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who encouraged the board to hold last week’s meeting and pressured them to reconsider their decision. “Pride does not belong to one group, it belongs to all of us.”
Rainy Reitman from the Bradley Manning Support Committee and Electronic Frontier Foundation, who just returned from Manning’s hearing at Ft Meade, noted that just 16 seats were provided for the public and only one-fifth of journalists who asked to cover the trial were admitted. “The government doesn’t want us to hear what he says, because it knows we will understand he acted from conscience,” she said.
Alluding to last week’s revelations about government surveillance of Verizon phone calls and data transmitted via Google, Facebook, and other Internet giants, which were leaked to Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, Reitman added, “This week, of all weeks, I think we all understand the value of whistleblowers.”
Other speakers at the press conference included Sue Englander of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club and long-time activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca. Lisa Geduldig ended the presser by dialing SF Pride’s office in a final attempt to get a statement, only to hear an answering machine stating that the membership voice mailbox is full.
Pride did finally issue a statement at 6:28 pm, soon after the presser ended, stating in part:
Over the past several weeks, SF Pride has sought to respectfully listen to and consider the various opinions and perspectives on the matter of Pfc. Bradley Manning and related interests in extending representative support for Pfc. Manning. The SF Pride Board of Directors recognizes the divergent opinions regarding the matter of Pfc. Manning, but none of the three main options we received from the community forum on May 31 garnered a consensus majority.
Although the meaning of “consensus majority” is not clear to this reporter, Cain indicated via Facebook comments that the board has not historically made decisions by unanimous consensus.
“I’m not disappointed in the statement because I wasn’t expecting anything from the Pride board,” Avicolli Mecca told the Castro Biscuit. “Whatever board members were thinking, or not thinking, it’s obvious that they have no respect for those who disagree with them, for the community they should be serving, or for fairness of any kind. The bottom line for me, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is that Bradley Manning IS grand marshal and hundreds of us will be marching to honor him on June 30.”