OP-ED: BRADLEY MANNING AND QUEER COLLABORATION
Rescinding Bradley Manning’s invitation to be the grand marshal of San Francisco’s big gay celebration is not what pride is all about, says Victoria Brownworth.
Ask anyone, queer or straight, what they think the queerest city in America is and most will say San Francisco. The City by the Bay has been the locus of all things queer since before Stonewall.
It made perfect sense, then, that San Francisco Pride would choose as its 2013 grand marshal Bradley Manning, the former Army intelligence specialist who is currently being prosecuted by the Obama administration and the Army for leaking thousands of classified documents via WikiLeaks. Many of those documents have been published and discussed extensively by top-level newspapers, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Guardian.
Manning has been deemed a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and other human rights groups. In March, Manning was short-listed for the Nobel Peace Prize with support from people as diverse as Republican congressman Ron Paul of Texas and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg. The Guardian, a U.K. newspaper, chose Manning as its Person of the Year 2012. His case has been a cause célèbre throughout Europe.
But within hours of the announcement Friday that Manning would be the grand marshal, and subsequent notification of Manning himself through Courage to Resist, which raises money to support his defense, Lisa L. Williams, San Francisco Pride board president, issued a disturbing press release. Williams stated emphatically that Manning’s nomination was “a mistake and never should have been allowed to happen.” Williams also blamed a rogue member of the committee that chooses the marshals and said he “had been disciplined.”
Disciplined — perhaps like Manning himself has been by the Obama administration, which has invoked the nearly century-old Espionage Act to prosecute Manning (but not any of the news outlets that have repeatedly published the documents he released) and other whistle-blowers.
The S.F. Pride board allegedly received numerous complaints from gay and lesbian service members about the choice of Manning and so withdrew it, blaming an unnamed board member.
The text of Williams’s press release reads like an indictment of Manning and his supporters rather than a simple “oops — we got our signals crossed.” The use of the term “disciplined” seems decidedly nonconsensual and very Bush-era.
On Monday longtime San Francisco activists Tommi Avicolli Mecca, Michael Petrelis and Lisa Gedulgig held what they termed a social justice protest outside the San Francisco Pride office. Protesters wore Bradley Manning masks and carried signs saying “I Am Bradley Manning.” Daniel Ellsberg attended the protest.
The Pride committee’s decision to dishonor Manning wasn’t just craven, it was — and is —reprehensible. It is absolutely anathema to what any Pride event is supposed be about, which is support for the diversity among and courage of LGBT people.
The ease with which the committee backed off the choice of Manning should unnerve every single queer in America. This is what collaboration looks like.
When I first read Williams’s press release, I was dumbfounded. I have been writing about Manning’s case since his arrest in May 2010. I detailed his torture at the hands of the Obama administration. I tweeted regularly how long he’d been held without charge as weeks turned to months. I elucidated the reasons why he should be given a presidential pardon and the precedent for it.
But Williams, even as she allows that Manning will get his day in court, cites as fact that Manning’s actions were dangerous and asserts, “Even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms [sic] 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.”
As Williams, speaking for the S.F. Pride committee in toto, presents it, Manning is tantamount to a terrorist, equivalent to the Tsarnaev brothers, putting the lives of countless people, military and civilian alike, at risk …