San Francisco Pride Officially Not Proud Of Bradley Manning
The broad, persistent push for equal rights for the LGBT community has been immensely successful. Some of the most significant successes have come from the courageous actions of gay men and women who serve in the military, men like Dan Choi.
In the last 24 hours another courageous gay man who served in the military is making headlines, Bradley Manning. The controversy is not that Manning has spent over 1,000 days in detention, initially in torturous conditions:
For the last three weeks in Ft. Meade, MD, Bradley Manning has had a pretrial motion hearing to seek accountability for the abusive treatment he endured at the Quantico Marine brig in Virginia, from July 29, 2010, to April 20, 2011. Manning was on Prevention of Injury watch (POI) or Suicide Watch his entire time in the brig, isolated in a 6×8 ft cell for 23 hours a day. For the first six months, he got only 20 minutes of sunshine a day. For the last month and a half, he had to surrender his underwear at night. For his entire time there, he was monitored around the clock, he had to ask for toilet paper and soap, and he had to wear metal shackles any time he left his cell. There weren’t detainees next to his cell, and when he left his cell the brig went in lockdown, so he was effectively barred from speaking to other inmates. And the military used his poor communication to justify his treatment.
No, the controversy instead is that some rogue member within the San Francisco Pride organization got Bradley Manning an honorary marshal designation in an upcoming pride parade.
The resulting anger from those in the military community who think Bradley Manning is a traitor to America caused SF Pride president, Lisa Williams, to quickly capitulate. Unfortunately Williams sorta overcompensated in her public reasoning. Here is her full statement:
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.
Instead of mitigating what is being framed as an internal blunder within SF Pride, Lisa Williams put fuel on the fire for those who don’t support this reversal; those who may be inclined to say stuff like this:
Williams did not simply go through the motions and make a statement clarifying he would not be honored like military factions of the LGBT community wanted. She herself put forth a robust condemnation of Manning fueled by her own perceptions.
The bio for Williams on SF Pride shows she works for a “political consulting and community advocacy” that serves Democratic Party politics. She “organized satellite offices for the Obama campaign.” She also is the PAC chair of the Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition.
Those statements are from Kevin Gosztola, a young journalist who has written extensively on Bradley Manning’s case. The frustration behind the depiction is palpable.
Ultimately, by fueling this controversy, Lisa Williams has done a favor for those concerned about the implications of Bradley Manning’s prosecution. For those who would rather a parade for gay pride just be that, I’m sure there’s plenty of justified frustration.
You don’t get significant policy wins by diluting your impact over some peripheral whistleblower case, and you certainly won’t curry favor with the current administration by pointing out how terrible they’ve been on the war against whistleblowers.