San Francisco to protest Pride’s cancellation of Bradley Manning honor

By Melanie Nathan, April 28, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 2.28.45 PMSan Francisco, CA – Gay activists have called a protest against the San Francisco Pride Committee for withdrawing of Bradley Manning as an honorary Grand Marshal for this year’s Pride.

Bradley Manning, widely known to be gay, had been selected to be one of the Grand Marshals of the annual San Francisco gay pride parade, supposedly named by the LGBT Pride Celebration Committee. When the predictable backlash instantly ensued, the president of the Board of SF Pride, Lisa L Williams, quickly capitulated, issuing statement that has added much fuel to the already out of control fire.

Manning,  was arrested in 2010, in Iraq, on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website Wikileaks. He was charged with a number of offenses including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy. The 25 year old’s trial is expected to begin in June 2013.

The protest comes amidst a huge controversy that has befallen San Francisco Pride.

The action is being organized by gay peace and social justice activists Michael Petrelis,  Tommi Avicolli Mecca, and Lisa Geduldig.

“Our message to SF Pride is that they should make Manning a Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride March and Celebration because of his brave act of whistleblowing against the military industrial complex,” said Petrelis. “We are fed up with marriage and military concerns sucking the oxygen out of what used to be a queer movement and Pride March and Celebration about social justice for queers,” Petrelis added.

Lisa Williams, San Francisco Pride Board President, rescinding the Grand Marshal honor to Manning released this statement:

SF Pride Statement about Bradley Manning

26 April 2013: Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration. His nomination was a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen. A staff person at SF Pride, acting under his own initiative, prematurely contacted Bradley Manning based on internal conversations within the SF Pride organization. That was an error and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride.

Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms 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. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country. There are many, gay and straight, military and non-military, who believe Bradley Manning to be innocent. There are many who feel differently. Under the US Constitution, they have a first amendment right to show up, participate and voice their opinions at Pride this year.

Specifically, what these events have revealed is a system whereby a less-than-handful of people may decide who represents the LGBT community’s highest aspirations as grand marshals for SF Pride. This is a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified. In point of fact, less than 15 people actually cast votes for Bradley Manning. These 15 people are part of what is called the SF Pride Electoral College, comprised of former SF Pride Grand Marshals. However, as an organization with a responsibility to serve the broader community, SF Pride repudiates this vote. The Board of Directors for SF Pride never voted to support this nomination. Bradley Manning will have his day in court, but will not serve as an official participant in the SF Pride Parade.

— Lisa L. Williams, SF Pride Board President   www.facebook.com/SanFranciscoPride/posts/622822351079480

A scathing critique of the San Francisco Pride organization appeared in this report by Glenn Greenwald  in the Guardian:

“….while even a hint of support for Manning will not be tolerated, there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms. The list is here. It includes AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens by the Bush administration and its NSA, only to get retroactively immunized from Congress and thus shielded from all criminal and civil liability (including a lawsuit brought in San Francisco against those corporations by their customers who were illegally spied on). Last month, AT&T was fined by OSHA for failing to protect one of its employees who was attacked, was found by the FCC last year to have overcharged customers by secretly switching them to plans they didn’t want, and is now being sued by the US government for “allegedly bill[ing] the government improperly for services designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the web.”

“……….. But the fact that such lock-step, heel-clicking, military-mimicking behavior is now coming from the SF Gay Pride Parade of all places is indeed noteworthy: it reflects just how pervasive this authoritarian rot has become.” read the article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/27/bradley-manning-sf-gay-pride

THE PROTEST IN SAN FRANCISCO:
Schedule & Speakers
5:00pm    Gather outside SF Pride Office, 1841 Market Street
(btwn Octavia & Guerrero), San Francisco
5:15pm    Speakers include:
Michael Petrelis (Gays Without Borders): Will speak on global gay issues
Tommi Avicolli Mecca (Queer activist for past 43 years): The history of Pride
John Caldera: Honorably Discharged US Navy Corpsman; the only openly gay member of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission; Commander of the Bob Basker Post 315 of the American Legion (the only post within the American Legion named after an openly gay WWII Combat Veteran)
Carmen Simon (ACT UP)
Others TBA

The organizers are asking participants to carry “I Am Bradley Manning” signs and to wear Manning masks, which can be downloaded here: www.tinyurl.com/ManningMask

Melanie Nathan Comment: I have yet to comment on the whole debacle and reserve my opinion on the Bradley Manning nomination and its cancellation.  However I support this protest because –  this protest may well be about a lot more than the rescission of the controversial and short lived honor bestowed upon Manning. Perhaps we can look at this as the catalyst for ALL that is wrong with the organization and the historic annual event, and seek ways to save it from corporate clutches to reinstate it to its pure political importance. That said, lets us not forget that Pride has become a huge party for many thousands who often tend not to show up to support anything political, ever at all.  It is also an event that may not exist but for the corporate sponsorship it receives. How best to accomplish change?  I have some ideas – any suggestions?  Feel free to comment.

Melanie Nathan,
Nathan@privatecourts.com
@melanienathan1
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Melanie-Nathan-Advocacy/253495108038074?ref=hl

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 2.28.45 PM


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