Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Guardian titled “Bradley Manning is off limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced” has internationally publicized the cowardly decision of the San Francisco Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Celebration Committee to rescind its election of political prisoner U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshal of the annual Gay Pride Parade. Manning is the gay service member charged with giving WikiLeaks thousands of classified documents exposing U.S. atrocities in Iraq, along with other materials.
The decision to rescind the invitation was made in less than 24 hours after the president of the American Military Partners Association (AMPA) made the request to reverse the invitation. The amazing election of Manning and subsequent and scandalous renunciation of that election, however, may prove to be the galvanizing point of the left of the LGBTQ community, which has become increasingly vocal in criticizing the conservative bastion that promotes a pro-corporate atmosphere of the Parade and Festival. Indeed, there is the beginning of a struggle and a political revival of the SF Pride Parade as a vehicle for raising awareness of progressive political causes because of the latest Manning decision.
On Monday, April 29, 2013, a demonstration of about 200 supporters of Bradley Manning outside the offices of SF Pride Committee demanded that the Board of Directors of SF Pride reinstate Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshal. Chanting, “You say court marshal, we say Grand Marshal,” demonstrators heard over a dozen speakers from a variety of groups and organizations. The possibility of a public rebuke of the SF Pride’s outrageous decision was evident. Speaking at the event was Daniel Ellsberg, who in the 1970s revealed the secret bombings by the U.S. of Cambodia and numerous other atrocities in his famous Pentagon Papers leak. Ellsberg is a prominent supporter of Bradley Manning and a cofounder of the Bradley Manning Support Network.
Following Ellsberg in speaking out was famed Iraq war conscientious objector Stephen Funk, a gay former Marine and co-founder of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. Funk put the blame for the Iraq/Afghan wars not only on George Bush, its originator, but Barack Obama, its continuator. John Caldera, President of the SF Veteran’s Affairs Commission and longtime activist for Veterans Services in San Francisco echoed the criticism of the SF Pride’s acceptance of Wells Fargo and Bank of America as corporate sponsors, who have both put hundreds of veterans and their families out on the streets, having foreclosed on their homes. He called for the resignation of SF Pride board president Lisa Williams and pointed out that while the Board rescinded the election of Manning as Grand Marshal, placating the wishes of the AMPA, it did not consider the gay and lesbian Veterans in San Francisco, who support Manning as Grand Marshal. A number of other critical speakers were present representing the World Can’t Wait, SF Gray Panthers, Citizen Soldier, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Veterans for Peace, Libertarian Party as well as members of a group of emeritus SF Pride Grand Marshals, the body which put Manning forward as a Marshal. The event was counter-protested by a handful of supporters of Lisa Williams and the Log Cabin Republican Club activist Chris Bowman.
The San Francisco Pride Event is one of the largest grassroots events in the world and attracted approximately 1million attendees in 2012. Reinstating Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal will not only put the facts of his case directly in front of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities, but in front of the rest of the world as well.
Manning is a political prisoner of the Obama administration. His crime was to reveal the truth about the U.S. war and occupation. His revelations put no U.S. service member at risk. They were put at risk by the imperial war policies of the U.S. government, enshrined by both the Democrats and the Republicans. The struggle for justice for Bradley Manning will cause all to take a stand on these wars and occupations. This may very well be the Dreyfus affair of our generation.