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 Two days after his selection was announced in April, the board rescinded the honor, stating that “even the hint of support” for Manning’s actions “will not be tolerated.”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.”
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