A website is being launched to handle the expected high volume of interest in the Bradley Manning Freedom Torch Parade project. This grassroots liberation effort is being sponsored by Outright Libertarians and taking place in cities all across the country.
Six of our chapters have already confirmed plans to participate, with another two considering their options and a ninth rally taking place in a non-Outright city.
We are expecting a surge of support and for Torch Parade rallies to occur in many cities not yet scheduled. Special thanks to ally John Bechtol who has worked tirelessly to help us connect with media contacts and network supporters without whom this project would not have been possible.
(Written by Outright Libertarian and Libertatian National Comittee member Starchild)
Outright Libertarians, the GLBTQ caucus of the Libertarian Party, along with libertarian activists in San Francisco and other cities, is organizing a virtual torch parade to support private first class Bradley Manning, the U.S. government soldier being prosecuted for passing hundreds of thousands of secret documents, including video evidence of war crimes being committed by members of the U.S. government’s military, to the transparency websiteWikiLeaks run by Julian Assange, who remains a refugee in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“(The) torch will be carried, Olympian style, across the country, through freedom rallies in major cities along the way, just in time to be carried across the bridge into DC [...] on July 4th,” stated Outright secretary Mike Shipley in a description of the quickly-evolving plan published several days ago on Outright’s website.
Honorary Outright board member Dan Choi, a first lieutenant in the National Guard who also fought in Iraq and was discharged under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” after he came out as gay in 2009, said that justice requires having the truth, and that Bradley Manning served this cause. “What he did as a gay American, as a gay soldier, he stood for integrity, I am proud of him.” ( http://outrightusa.org/joomla25/blog/250-for-immediate-release ).
The event will start with a torch-lighting ceremony in San Francisco after Bradley Manning supporters march in the annual gay San Francisco Pride Parade happening June 30, which typically attracts over a million people, participation by local politicians, and major news coverage.
Supporters of the incarcerated revealer of U.S. government war crimes, including members of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco, have marched in Pride parades before.
This year however, promises to be different. The atmosphere leading up to the Pride weekend that culminates in a huge parade down Market Street has been fraught with tension since late April, when a major controversy surfaced around whether the 25-year-old gay army private would be honored as a a Grand Marshal of this year’s parade.
During the past two weeks, SF Pride’s offices have been twice besieged by hundreds of supporters of Bradley Manning upset with the board of the Pride organization’s cowardice and hypocrisy in first listing the WikiLeaks whistleblower on a list of four nominees to serve (in absentia, since he’s still in jail) as one of the Grand Marshals of this year’s parade and announcing after a vote by their “electoral college” of former Grand Marshals that he was selected, and then a short time later retracting that announcement, claiming it was an “error” and that the person responsible for the announcement had been “disciplined”.
What actually appears to be the case is that the leadership of SF Pride capitulated in the face of criticism by some former military personnel opposed to honoring Manning, most notably one gay man who was reported to be fearful that the recognition could jeopardize his campaign to get the U.S. military to allow GLBTQ service members to march in uniform in Gay Pride parades, and are now trying to cover their butts over that decision.
As Dan Choi’s views illustrate, that decision certainly did not represent the views of all GLBTQ service members. American Legion Post 315 in San Francisco has demanded that Williams resign, with post Commander John Caldera calling the group’s reaction to the Pride president’s anti-Manningstatement “a swift and appropriate response to the disappointing and discrediting actions of the President of San Francisco Pride against the LGBT community.”
On April 29, over 100 Bradley Manning supporters including Caldera and other veterans protested outside SF Pride’s offices. Bisexual Libertarian National Committee member and local activist and sex worker Starchild spoke at the event along with Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower who was the Bradley Manning of his day back in the 1970s, several former Pride parade Grand Marshals, and other local activists. Here is video of Starchild speaking at that rally:
Gary Virginia, an SF Pride Grand Marshal in 2012 and one of those who voted for Bradley Manning to be honored, informed rally attendees that he’d been told in confidence by someone inside the organization that Manning had received the most votes of all the nominees. But neither he nor other former grand marshals including Joey Cain, the former SF Pride president who nominated the young gay man for the honor, knew the details of the vote, which have so far been kept secret. Cain said he’d been told Manning was selected, but then had the reversal sprung on him without a clear rationale being given. He said board members wouldn’t even return his phone calls.
“They say Court Martial, we say Grand Marshal!” chanted protesters, many of them holding signs and wearing stickers in support of Manning, as two large banners for the incarcerated whistleblower flapped in the breeze.
A day later, the Bay Area Reporter, a leading GLBTQ community newspaper in San Francisco, published an editorial calling on the board to uphold Bradley Manning’s selection. But the Pride board still refused to rescind the retraction and honor its original announcement naming him as a Grand Marshal.
“Even the hint of support” for Bradley Manning “will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride” while he is on trial, said SF Pride board president Lisa Williams in that statement. Williams, it turns out, has ties to the administration that is prosecuting Manning after keeping the Army private in jail without trial or due process for over 1,000 days, having organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign. She is also the president and owner of One Source Consulting, a political consulting firm identified with Democratic Party politics according to multiple sources.
So Bradley Manning supporters showed up again last Tuesday, May 7, to attend the public meeting of the SF Pride board and speak during public comment. That meeting — or to be more accurate lack of a meeting — turned into a fiasco, as reported by the B.A.R. and written up for Outright byStarchild .
The Pride board kept members of the public waiting on the street outside their offices for nearly two hours, only to finally announce that the meeting was cancelled, after two abortive starts during which a handful of Bradley Manning supporters were allowed to give public comment for only 60 seconds each as Williams and other members of the board sat impassively. They refused to either allow a cameraperson from KTVU Channel 2, which broadcast the story that evening, into the meeting, or to adjourn to a larger meeting room that could accommodate more members of the public. When Starchild, one of the activists who made it into the building and was allowed to give public comment, shouted out the window of the 4th floor office to supporters on the street below that the board was trying to keep cameras and the press out, he was physically grabbed by a Pride security officer who attempted to escort him out of the room, to the dismay of Daniel Ellsberg and other Manning supporters present.
In the end, Starchild was allowed to remain until he and nine others including Ellsberg, Virginia, Cain, sex educator and former Grand Marshal Carol Queen, Rainey Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network and others had given public comment, at which point the members of the public present were asked to leave in order to make room for the next group to be allowed in to testify. Once outside and downstairs however, after watching Ellsberg interviewed on the sidewalk by a TV news crew, Starchild was informed that Pride officials had not allowed anyone else in to speak, and were claiming the elevator was broken. “That pathetic lie was probably a low point for them,” Starchild said. “I think the whole thing of asking us to leave and make space in the meeting room was just a ploy to get everybody out of the building. There was another entrance with stairs around front, and they weren’t allowing anyone up that way either.”
A subsequent confrontation on those stairs ended in the police being called and the executive director of SF Pride, Eric Plante, claiming he had been assaulted and demanding the arrest of the activist he said was responsible, who by the time the police arrived apparently could not be located. A police officer told Starchild that the person who called them had claimed that “200 people were rioting in the street”, which he seemed to acknowledge was a gross fabrication (by that point there were no more than a score of people hanging around calmly on the sidewalk, and whatever minor pushing may have occurred had taken place inside the building, not out in the street).
“Bradley Manning is now the Grand Marshal of something much bigger,” said San Francisco area libertarian activist and Seasteading Institute ambassador John Bechtol, who is helping organize the virtual torch parade. “It doesn’t matter what the board does now. Even their misconduct will serve as a galvanizing force.”
Torch parade organizers in Seattle, Phoenix, and Washington D.C. have already been secured, and outreach efforts are underway to activists in St. Louis, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Miami, and elsewhere. Overseas Bradley Manningsupporters in places like the UK, Germany, and Australia may also get involved in the event, Bechtol said.
Other libertarians involved along with Shipley, Bechtol and Starchild in organizing the torch parade include former Libertarian National Committee member and Outright Libertarians Executive Chair Angela Keaton, and radio host and former candidate for Libertarian Party national chair Ernest Hancock, famous in Ron Paul circles for popularizing the “r3VOLution” meme used heavily in the libertarian Republican’s 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.
Those wishing to go the extra mile are urged to contact the Pride parade organizers where you live, fill them in about Bradley Manning and the parade controversy if they haven’t already heard, and asking that they honor him in their own local Pride parades in solidarity with freedom supporters in San Francisco. Here is a list of dates and locations for pride events in the United States and around the world.
Bradley Manning’s trial proceedings, in which there have already been several hearings, is scheduled to resume May 21, and there is a big rally for him on June 1 at Fort Meade, Maryland, where it is taking place. The date set for the actual court martial itself is June 3. But regardless of the outcome, Manning is clearly already seen by many in the GLBTQ community as a gay hero, not a criminal. In the words of another chant from the Pride protests…
“Blowing the Whistle on War Crimes Is Not A Crime!”
The outcry surrounding SF Pride's snubbing of Bradley Manning as an honorary Grand Marshal in the 2013 parade has the potential to unite every faction of the freedom movement from R3\/0Lution to Occupy.
Concerns about the police state, indefinite detention, and NDAA together with a strong desire for universal, hard-core liberation (as opposed to vanilla "equality") ignited in outrage when the Pride committee announced its ill-fated decision, and now a bold coalition of freedom advocates has emerged with a beautiful vision for a parade of liberation that will dwarf the pride board's pitiful attempt to squelch any "hint" of support.
The Bradley Manning Liberty Torch Parade would begin in San Francisco, with the Bradley Manning contingent proudly igniting the flame of freedom and carrying it in the parade. But instead of stopping there, that torch will be carried, Olympian style, across the country, through freedom rallies in major cities along the way, just in time to be carried across the bridge into DC [...] on July 4th
We believe this ceremonial procession has the symbolic power to catch the imagination of Americans from sea to shining sea ... galvanizing the widest spectrum of freedom activists seen in recent years, linking individual rights in a way that the left/right dichotomy has long held divided as opposition, and drawing the attention of alternative and mainstream media alike.
WHAT: San Francisco Pride Board of Directors Monthly Meeting: Public Comment
WHERE: San Francisco Pride Office
WHEN: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 @ 6:30pm
Pics and related commentary have been blogged elsewhere. Here is what happened, as described by Starchild himself:
"I was expecting a sit-down meeting with some speechifying, but it turned out to be another protest with even more drama than last week. The SF Pride Committee kept members of the public waiting outside well past their meeting's scheduled 630pm start time, and when I got there around 640pm, there were probably over 100 people gathered around the building entrance on Pearl Street, an alley just off Market, including a number who were their last week, notably Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame. Around a quarter of 7, I rang their buzzer and a woman answered. I told her that a whole bunch of folks were waiting outside to speak during public comment in support of Bradley Manning, and she said they were planning to let people in at 7pm, which I announced to the crowd. However, that time came and went without us hearing anything further. A few minutes after 7, a guy arrived who someone reported to be the treasurer of SF Pride, and let himself in the door of the building. Some of the protesters there attempted to follow him in, which he tried to prevent, but with them standing there he was unable to close the door, and eventually a bunch of us crowded into the lobby, where we tried to get on the elevator to go up to the 4th floor offices. A couple people associated with the Pride organization then tried to prevent people from getting on the elevator, as the rest of us chanted to "Let the press in!", "Let the people speak!", etc. A couple loads of folks did manage to get on, including myself.
"Once upstairs, I proceeded down a hallway to a room overlooking Market Street, where they had already started their meeting. A sign taped on the wall said "Occupancy 22" (one of the Pride workers who'd tried to guard the elevator later said out on the street that he'd been the one who put up the sign, and had called the Fire Department earlier to get the occupancy information -- everything points to them trying to limit participation), and I think that's about how many people were in there, including maybe 8 or so committee members seated behind some tables at one end of the room, and the rest of us in various chairs. The meeting was apparently underway -- sort of. The Pride committee had just released a statement, a written copy of which had circulated a little in the crowd downstairs (I couldn't find the statement online, but it's referenced with some details from it here, along with other coverage of the protest, and news that a complaint against SF Pride has been filed with the SF Human Rights Commission by David Waggoner, who defended Ross Mirkarimi, and others -- http://oblogdeeoblogda.me/2013/05/06/bradley-manning-san-francsico-pride-controversy-may-not-be-over/ ), and they wanted one of their members to read it, and then to take public comment of one minute per person.
"However a number of us objected and instead of sitting down and allowing them to proceed, started raising various procedural issues. Gary Virginia objected to the meeting having been started before people were allowed upstairs, whereupon SF Pride chair Lisa Williams said they were restarting the meeting now (ignoring the fact that most of the crowd was still downstairs, and not being allowed up). We said we wanted the news media allowed in -- the Channel 2 cameraperson was also stuck downstairs. A few other people, including I think her reporter colleague, got upstairs but were left out in the hallway and not allowed to enter the room where the meeting was happening. I had tried to give up my elevator spot to the TV camerawoman, but the Pride folks wouldn't allow her to bring up her camera. Some people, including Michael Petrelis and Gary Virginia, maybe others, did take shots with still cameras during the meeting. I'm not sure whether anyone got any video. The committee had their legal counsel, a woman named Brooke Oliver, on speaker phone, and some of them were trying to talk to her over the talking in the room. It was a bit chaotic. The legal counsel was telling the committee that they did not have to allow media or cameras to be present, that it was a private organization (although SF Weekly reports they got $58,400 in "Grants for the Arts" funding from the city government. People including myself were saying it was a public meeting (that's how it had been billed), and that we wanted it open to the public and the media. Oliver started out just giving legal advice, but then started weighing in with her own opinions, which basically sounded like "don't give them anything". Lisa Williams basically just sat there and said almost nothing, and it was almost like the legal council was running the meeting over the phone, saying what was going to happen and how.
"Meanwhile, we could hear some of the protesters yelling and chanting outside. A few, holding the large Bradley Manning banners, had moved to the center median strip on Market, where they had a direct line of sight to our 4th floor meeting room. One window was partially open, and I yelled to the people outside that they were refusing to allow media and cameras into the meeting. Around that time, apparently, someone on the committee called security to remove me, and a few seconds later, a big security guy physically took my arm and tried to escort/pull me out of the room, saying "let's go" or words to that effect. I objected strongly, saying I wasn't doing anything wrong and was trying to take part in the meeting. He seemed a little uncertain, as the room was a bit volatile, and I obviously *wasn't* doing anything at the time he grabbed me. He let go of me, but asked me to step outside and talk with him about it, which I also declined, saying we could talk where we were, and sat down again. At that point he gave up, but the threat of force had apparently served its purpose, and they got on with their agenda of taking minimal public comment from those in the room.
"I wish I'd taken better notes on what was said during public comment, but was mainly just in the moment and also focused on thinking about what I was going to say. I did write down the names in order, with what I recall from each speaker:
"Michael Petrelis - Excoriated the Pride committee's behavior, said it was part of a long ongoing pattern, etc.
"Daniel Ellsberg - Thanked the committee for apologizing to Bradley Manning for "harsh language", but said the apology was "inadequate"; talked a lot more about Bradley Manning, including saying there was a petition with over 57,000 signatures supporting him to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, etc. (when I said hello to Ellsberg at the elevator and mentioned I was with the LP by the way, he said "I agree strongly with their foreign policy".)
"Carol Queen (former Grand Marshal) - Sounded a somewhat more conciliatory note; said it pained her to see the Pride name dragged through this, and that the retraction "made me feel excluded and confused"
"Dr. Thomas Erlich Reicher (sp?) (sociology prof. at University of San Diego) - I didn't take any notes on his comments
"Bruce Guidet (sp?) - I didn't take any notes on his comments
"Jerry Berbier (aka Jerry tha Faerie) - "You are on the wrong side of the community" and "you will all be voted out if you don't change your position"; said especially the "political hacks" among them should be concerned
"Lisa Geduldig (comedian?) - I didn't take any notes on her comments
"Gary Virginia (former Grand Marshal) - He gave what I thought were the best comments, was both harshly critical and brought facts to bear. Said several board members were his friends, "this isn't personal", but called the board "hypocrites", accused them of lacking transparency, and said "You have procedural issues, you have transparency issues". He told them that the policy they were quoting in their statement (supposedly disqualifying Manning from being a grand marshal because he isn't local or in the celebrity category "was not published anywhere", had never been sent to him as a member of their electoral college, and he couldn't find it online. He also mentioned that "one of your own members" had reported that Bradley Manning in fact got the highest number of votes for Grand Marshal
"Thomas Pligman (sp?) (labor activist) - "I'm flat out ashamed of you. You have presumed to speak for us. You have endangered this man's (Bradley Manning's) legal case."
"Starchild - Announced myself as a Libertarian National Committee member, there on behalf of the LPSF and Outright Libertarians. I praised Gary Virginia's comments, said that the statement listing two new choices for Grand Marshal for the community to vote on should include Bradley Manning; said that the public should be able to vote for Grand Marshal, and that if they did, that I was confident Bradley Manning would be the choice. I noted the ridiculousness of saying he was disqualified based on not being local, when they could just add him as Grand Marshal in some other category, or change the rules to make it happen
"Rainey Reitman - (Bradley Manning Support Network) - I didn't take any notes on her comments
"Peter Anderson - "Give the kind of respect that Bradley Manning deserves as a true hero"
"During all this, the Pride committee members basically just sat there and said nothing. Their council had advised them they didn't have to respond to us, just listen. It's not clear what they were thinking. Lisa Geduldig claimed she felt optimistic that they might be reconsidering, but others disagreed with that assessment.
"After everyone in the room who wanted to give public comment had spoken, they asked us to vacate the room so more people could be allowed in to speak. Most of us headed out, with the exception of a couple press people who stayed behind to report. The Pride workers blocked the hallway and wouldn't let us take the elevator down, saying for safety they didn't want to let us into the crowded room downstairs off Pearl Street, but insisted we take the stairs down to the other entrance on Market Street. When we got down there, Daniel Ellsberg was interviewed by some more of the media. Eventually I walked around to the Pearl Street entrance, where there were lots of people still hanging out in the room in front of the elevator. By now it was maybe 15 minutes or so after I'd come downstairs, but I was told no one else had been allowed upstairs. Evidently they had lied about having us leave in order to allow others to take our places. Someone even told me they'd claimed the elevator was broken. Daniel Ellsberg came around and made a speech. Most of the people went around to the front entrance. I stayed in the elevator room with a few others, afraid they might simply be trying to get everyone out of the building. After maybe another 15 minutes or so, word came that they had cancelled the rest of the meeting and postponed it until next week when they could hold it in a larger room. A woman complained that she had called Pride's offices just that afternoon and asked them where the meeting was to be held, suggesting they'd need a large room, and had been rudely rebuffed by a man who hung up on her. Gary Virginia also later mentioned that he'd written to Pride about the same issue, and apparently been ignored. Someone said there is actually a larger room on the premises that could have accommodated everyone (I don't know whether that's true or not). T
"Those of us who remained went back out front to the Market Street entrance, where apparently there'd been a stand-off with security just inside the building in the stairwell that was now winding down and people coming outside as the word spread that the meeting was postponed. There were two or three police cars parked nearby, and some police standing on the sidewalk. I'd rescued one of the protest signs left behind in the alley (Bradley Manning Grand Marshal), and one of them saw it and asked me "Who's Bradley Manning?" I think I should have responded "Who's John Galt?" but didn't think of that until now. :-) I told him he was the WikiLeaks whistleblower, and asked them if they'd been called about this protest. The cop said they'd gotten a call that "200 people were rioting in the street". That was laughable, as there had never been any riot. He seemed to agree, looking about and seeing only maybe a couple dozen people around, all fairly mellow, and said he had to wait to hear what their supervisors wanted them to do. Shortly after that, a girl coming up on her bike said she'd heard some cops at the corner talking about arresting someone. Apparently someone from the Pride organization was talking to some of the other cops (someone said he was the executive director; I'm not sure about that) and telling them he'd been assaulted and wanted the person who did it arrested. A short time before that, I'd heard a protester complaining that *he'd* been knocked down by security and the cops wouldn't do anything about it. Anyway, this Pride guy surrounded by three or four cops came over to our group of protesters, but I guess they couldn't find who they were looking for, and walked away again. Gary Virginia and I walked back down the block to listen to what they were saying, but were told to stay away from the officers taking the guy's report, who moved further down the alley. I decided in light of that to demand they take my statement about being assaulted by the security guard upstairs grabbing my arm, which I had been going to just ignore as I hadn't been hurt or anything, but I didn't want them to come away with thinking our side were the violent or trouble-causing ones. So the remaining cop (SGT Shea, #2092) took my report (case #130375339). I found it noteworthy that he asked for my name, address, phone number and birthdate, but didn't ask to see any ID, whereas when cops have in the past had less reason to need my information, they have demanded to see my ID. More double standards.
"Anyway, the upshot seems to be that the Pride officials are afraid to face the public and the media, and are hoping their inadequate apology and holding out the carrot of Bradley Manning possibly being honored next year will get them off the hook. It won't. There is no word that they gave a specific day, time or location for next week's meeting, so this bears watching very closely. They showed tonight that they are not above lies and dirty tricks.
"Love & Liberty,
((( starchild )))"
(Images courtesy of The Petrelis Files)