(In an effort to respect the wishes of PFC. Manning, this article refers to “her” rather than “him,” and to “Breanna” Manning rather than “Bradley” Manning. For a thoughtful and thorough consideration of this matter, read here.)
Roughly fifty supporters of PFC. Breanna Manning gathered Thursday afternoon on the sidewalk in front of the Democratic Party headquarters in Boston. This rally occurred at the same time as several others in cities across the country. The organizing efforts of “Courage to Resist,” an organization which provides support to “military objectors critical of our government’s current policies of empire,” are to thank for this outpouring of support for Manning. The rallies were planned to coincide with the day President Obama would formally accept his party’s electoral nomination. Manning’s greatest hope for a timely release is presidential pardon.
Various speakers took turns standing atop a chair, from which they addressed the crowd and passersby. Pat Scanlon, a member of Veterans for Peace, spoke of the resonances between Manning’s experiences and Scanlon’s own, as an intelligence analyst during the Vietnam War.
David House, a founding member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, spoke of the “vast breach of due process” that characterized Manning’s detainment. House called on Americans to “hold our leaders accountable and hold ourselves accountable to educate the public.”
After the planned speakers, others were invited to speak. Allie, from Occupy Boston, drew attention to the isolation and mistreatment of LGBT service-members like Manning and urged listeners to think twice about the president’s promises to support LGBT communities.
Nearby, Marguerite Mooradian, a student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, created on-the-spot protest posters, including a vividly colored portrait of Manning emblazoned with the words, “Saw something. Said something.” Mooradian has been documenting Manning’s case for some time now.
The call to action which promoted Thursday’s rallies nationwide included a quote from President Obama’s speech on the Arab Spring in May 2011: “In the twenty-first century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.” Manning’s supporters at the rally sought to remind the President of the promises of his own rhetoric, promises that differ sharply from the actions of his administration—an administration that has presided over more leaks prosecutions under the Espionage Act of 1917 than all other presidents combined.
Manning is accused of leaking classified government documents, many of which were subsequently published by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. These documents expose new information about civilian casualties in Iraq, human-rights abuses by U.S.-funded contractors and foreign militaries, and the role of spying, bribery, and deception in international diplomacy. Manning’s criminal trial is now expected to start in Feb 2013; if convicted of all charges, she will face the rest of her life in prison.
Before her trial even began, Manning had already served more than eight hundred days in prison, including nine months in solitary confinement while detained at Quantico in Virginia; such conditions are widely acknowledged to violate basic human rights and drew censure from the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and Amnesty International, among others. Following public outcry, in April 2011 PFC. Manning was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and allowed to interact with other detainees.