From the SF Chapter of World Can’t Wait
It’s time to step it up for Bradley Manning as his case nears trial, and on August 16 actions supporting Bradley Manning up and down the West Coast brought out several hundred protesters, with military veterans at the heart of each demonstration and/or occupation. Six people were arrested occupying Obama campaign headquarters in Oakland, and another six for the same action in Portland. Other protests were in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Seattle.
OAKLAND, CA Rallying at 5 PM in Oscar Grant Plaza, over a hundred people then marched two blocks to the Obama campaign headquarters. Three members of Iraq Veterans Against the War had just entered this office to begin an occupation “to raise awareness about the injustices facing military whistle-blower and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning.” Three women right behind them sat down and linked arms, holding the doors open as the march arrived. Dozens more flooded in, cheering and chanting “Free Bradley Manning” as the Brass Liberation Orchestra laid down its marching beat.
As the vets gave phone interviews to the press and attempted to begin their sit-in, they were assaulted by Obama staffers who pushed, shouted, and brandished furniture at the three men, before a campaign manager shooed her staff to the back of the room (this was the only physical conflict of the entire day’s action).
The vets bore a letter raising their demands to Obama (attached) and read it aloud, demanding their letter be faxed to the central campaign office. About 60 protesters packed the room for nearly an hour with many more filling the street outside and keeping the doors open. There were several generations of war veterans, teens, older sisters and brothers too. People passed a bullhorn, speaking about Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Wikileaks (heroes all), the demands in the vets’ letter, the need for more LGBT groups to publicly support Manning, the Obama administration’s wars and war crimes, Obama’s repression against more whistleblowers than all prior administrations combined. A KPFA Flashpoints reporter moved among us, interviewing and reporting live on the air. TV cameras began arriving outside. When the police finally moved in, seven people sat down, linked arms, and prepared to be arrested: the three vets plus four activists with CodePink, World Can’t Wait, and Occupy Oakland. Our other friends moved back out into the street, but it still took the cops ten minutes to close the doors due to a totally interwoven knot of people clogging their way. Inside we could barely hear the cops talking at us over the bright horns and loud chanting from the street. “One! We are the people…. Two! A little bit louder…. Three! We want justice… Four! Bradley Manning…” and “Send the fax! Send the fax!”
The sit-in went on for several hours. Whoever was calling the shots on our arrest didn’t want headlines about military veterans accusing Obama of commanding illegal wars and war crimes, and silencing truth-tellers. Especially when one of the three young vets was Scott Olsen, who survived a near-lethal projectile shot to the head by Oakland police during an Occupy action. The cops tried to wheedle us into leaving. They ordered the Obama people to send the vets’ letter as demanded, and they offered to block off the street and let our action continue if we’d just take it outside. Then they sent in a “hostage negotiator” who also got nowhere.
At almost nine o’clock, Scott Olsen walked back out into the street, unarrested, to be a voice on the outside to the media and the people. The rest of us were arrested and hauled off to spend the night in the city jail (the women chanted and stomped their way into the paddy wagon). About 30 people followed in a march to the jail, to vigil in support.
The six people arrested in Oakland are due in court September 17 on trespass charges. But even before then, many more people can “join” us! A new “Call for Action at Obama Campaign Offices Nationwide Sept. 6th during Democratic National Convention” has just been issued by the Bradley Manning Support Network, Afghans For Peace and the SF Bay Iraq Veterans Against the War.
This call addresses an enormous need. Who will refuse to be silent when Bradley Manning faces life in prison for giving the people the truth about the crimes of our government – while the war criminals themselves walk free? Whose hearts will lift at seeing a wave of actions refusing to go along with the “lesser of two evils” and all its hellish wars and other crimes? Imagine such actions everywhere – including where you live.
Start now. Gather your people, make good plans. Dream big and act together. The World Can’t Wait.