“Free Bradley Manning! Free Bradley Manning!” chanted human rights supporters in San Francisco’s Justin Herman Plaza this afternoon. For nearly 1,000 days, PFC Bradley Manning, the 25-year-old former intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army, has been incarcerated for allegedly passing classified documents to the whistleblower Web site, Wikileaks, including the video “Collateral Murder” showing the killing of 11 Iraqi civilians by U.S. attack helicopters. Among the dead were two working Reuters reporters. Two children were also severely wounded in the attack.
The rally drew a crowd of more than 100, including tourists in town for this evening’s Chinese New Year Parade. Speakers at today’s rally included Jeff Patterson of Courage to Resist, Rainey Reitman and Michael Thurman of the Bradley Manning Support Network, Art Persyko of the 99% Coalition, Mary Ann Thomas of World Can’t Wait and Denny Riley of Veterans for Peace, among others.
“Two and a half years ago we made a promise to Bradley and his family that we would pay his entire legal bill for any legal team that he chose,” Gulf war resister Jeff Patterson told the crowd. “More than 16,500 people have donated to Bradley’s defense and we have raised almost $1 million for him. We have been sitting behind Bradley for each hearing and he knows about our support for him. Knowing this is the fight of his life, he looks hopeful because he knows he has millions of people around the world, like you, that support him. He couldn’t face that without you to have his back. We will keep fighting until Bradley Manning is free.”
Rainey Reitman, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, said, “One of the tactics that the United States government is using to deal with the ‘Bradley Manning’ problem is pushing his trial off again, and again, and again in hopes the American public won’t notice. Our fundraising keeps Bradley’s family from having to mortgage their home to pay his legal expenses. I am so impressed that after two and a half years we are still able to energize and engage people to show up at events like this and continue to donate to make sure we have enough funding to cover Brad’s legal costs. It has been a very difficult and frustrating legal battle. We’ve had a few wins; we’ve had a few losses. We need public awareness now, not just for Bradley Manning, but for every whistleblower that comes in the future – post Bradley Manning – that exposes war crimes.”
“It is dangerous when people are quiet or paralyzed, cowed and complicit as the crimes go on and on,” World Can’t Wait’s Mary Ann Thomas told the crowd. “You can usually tell something about a society by the kind of military force it wields. Look at the kinds of weapons created and used by the U.S. – poison gas in World War I, nukes in World War II, napalm against the Vietnamese people, white phosphorus in the Gulf war. These technologies are so heinous that millions of people removed their support from U.S. belligerence. And now we have killer drones – the Reaper, the Predator – murder by drone is a strategy and it is made in America.”
As Manning’s supporters are not only in the Bay Area, solidarity rallies for him were held in 70 cities around the world. Photo messages from his supporters both here and abroad were displayed in the plaza. These messages were part of an online “photo petition” on the Web site www.iambradleymanning.org.
Also, on display in the plaza was a 1/5 scale replica of a MQ-9 Reaper drone provided by knowdrones.com, which provides drone replicas and educational materials to support citizen action to achieve an international ban on weaponized drones and surveillance drones – war drones.
Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 3, 2013, three years after he was arrested. For the first 10 months of his incarceration, Manning was tortured and held in solitary confinement, amid international outrage among human rights supporters and military resisters and veterans.
On February 26, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, will submit a motion to dismiss the case for lack of a speedy trial. In the motion, Coombs states: “PFC Manning’s statutory and constitutional speedy trial rights have been trampled upon with impunity…by violating the 5th and 6th Constitutional Amendments, Rule for Court Martial 707, and Uniform Code of Military Justice Article 10.” Manning was required to be arraigned within 120 days but prosecutors took over 600 days. Coombs also showed substantial periods of inactivity and needless delay by the prosecutors. Judge Denise Lind could dismiss the charges with prejudice, if she determines the government intentionally delayed the trial. This ruling would allow Manning to be released, but she could also dismiss without prejudice, which would allow the government to retry the case.
The Bradley Manning Support Network and Courage to Resist initiated the rally. For more information, visit <www.bradleymanning.org/>