SF Pride President Capitulates to Military Groups, Announces Bradley Manning Won’t Be Honored

by Kevin Gosztola | April 29, 2013

A group of former San Francisco Pride parade grand marshals that SF Pride calls its electoral college announced on April 26 that Pfc. Bradley Manning, the gay private who the United States military is currently prosecuting for disclosing information to WikiLeaks, had been selected as honorary grand marshal for this year’s LGBT Pride Celebration.

The decision greatly offended some of the most militaristic LGBT organizations and activists, who condemned SF Pride. That ultimately led to capitulation by SF Pride president, Lisa Williams, who announced in a letter that Manning would not be honored this year.

She cast the reversal as a product of dysfunction in the organization:

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.

She briefly noted the process for voting by the electoral college and then stated, “The Board of Directors for SF Pride never voted to support this nomination.”

SF Pride certainly has the right to, through whatever process, decide who to celebrate and who not to celebrate. The full story on what happened in the past twenty-four hours is not known yet so, in the meantime, the focus should be on the stated reasons by LGBT leaders, organizers and others against celebrating him.

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:

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. [emphasis added]

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.

Scott Long at his blog on sex, rights and the world called “Paper Bird” highlights the irony that a person who chairs a coalition that is supposed to celebrate Rustin is fueling the vilification of Manning.

Rustin, if you remember, was one of the great figures of 20th-century America: a pacifist, a war resister, an icon of civil disobedience, and the key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. (Also a gay man). Rustin spent three years in Lewisburg Penitentiary as a conscientious objector during the Second World War.  The quote (slightly tweaked) came from a citizen of West Chester, PA, back in 2002, who objected to naming a school after Bayard Rustin. After all, the traitor broke US law, encouraged others to do likewise, and opposed the military and domestic policies of the United States.

The quote: “I am against naming it after Bayard Rustin, as he was a traitor to the good old United States of America. If we all had felt this way, Hitler would have ruled the world.”

Long quotes Rustin, who said the Vietnam War was “a useless, destructive, disgusting war …We must be on the side of revolutionary democracy. And, in addition to all the other arguments for a negotiated peace in Vietnam, there is this one: that it is immoral, impractical, un-political, and unrealistic for this nation to identify itself with a regime which does not have the confidence of its people … I say to the President: America cannot be the policeman of this globe!”

It is more than irony. It is indicative of what writer Chris Hedges would describe as a “preference for comfort or privilege over truth and confrontation.”

To apply Hedges’ wisdom to this moment, Williams is part of a liberal class, which derives its ideological stances from “what is most expedient to the careers of its members.” The liberal class “refuses to challenge, in a meaningful way, the decaying structures of democracy or the ascendancy of the corporate state. It glosses over the relentless assault on working men and women and the imperial wars that are bankrupting the nation. It proclaims its adherence to traditional liberal values while defending and promoting systems of power that mock these values.” And, Wiliams is wed to “pillars of the liberal establishment,” particularly the Democratic Party, which “honor an unwritten quid pro quo with corporations and the power elite, as well as our masters of war, on whom they depend for money, access and positions of influence.”

This article first appeared on The Dissenter.