Bradley Manning Supporters Marched in Gay Pride Parades

Hands off Wikileaks
New York

The Bradley Manning Coalition was spirited effort that brought the message “Free Bradley Manning” to thousands, if not millions, of people who watched and participated in the NYC Gay Pride Parade.  Many of these people (we estimated 40%), both LBGT and straight, had never heard of Bradley Manning before.  At the same time, our anti-war, pro-Manning message received rousing cheers all along the parade route. Our contingent had a clear and cogent message:  Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime and Bradley Manning is a gay hero who for his alleged acts has been treated with incredible harshness before he has even had a trial.  With whistles and drums and glorious banners , people young and old distributed 3,500 palm cards and about 1500 Bradley Manning stickers to those lining the parade route. See photos.

The coalition included World Can't Wait, the Freedom Socialist Party, Code Pink, Vets For Peace and Brooklyn For Peace, Radical Women, and Peace Action NYS.  These groups were not just endorsers, but active participants in a process of coming together in a common cause.

 

San Francisco

At the biggest Pride in the world, up to a million people crowd San Francisco's Market Street to watch a parade stream past for over 3 hours.  The Bradley Manning contingent numbered 40-50 marchers, representing Courage to Resist, World Can't Wait, Code Pink, Vets for Peace, and many other friends.  Together we fanned out alongside also, distributing 8,500 flyers and tones of pink and orange Bradley Manning stickers.  Sometimes pockets in the crowd would burst into cheers as we marched past, even joining our chants ("Free Bradley Manning! Stop These Wars!" etc.), their rainbow flags waving like crazy.  Sometimes large sections would silently read our banners, clearly not knowing a thing about Bradley Manning -- so with our bullhorns and leaflets we'd tell them, and then many hands would reach out, and some would don stickers, and wave and smile.  We marched (see photos), chanted and sang ("We Will, We Will FREE YOU!") and tried to send our message out to millions.

Chicago

This year's Pride Parade in Chicago was another huge one. This is why it was so good that there was a Free Bradley Manning Contingent. Organized by the Gay Liberation Network, the contingent included World Can't Wait, Code Pink, South Siders for Peace, Stop F.B.I. Repression, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and others.

The face of Bradley Manning and his story got out very widely today, with thousands of flyers grabbed up by crowds lining the street. World Can't Wait marched with the "Hands Off Wikileaks, Prosecute War Criminals - Not Julian Assange" banner and the GLN truck featured an enormous 20 foot banner that read "Free Bradley Manning - Gay Alleged Wikileaker."

Many of the parade watchers did not know who he was, but were attentive and intrigued by what we had to say. The majority of those who did know were elated to see this contingent in the parade and cheered and hugged the marchers or gave high fives. Many of them thanked us for being there with this message. It is important to note that many of the youth were very excited about the Wikileaks banner...cheering and shouting "Yay Wikileaks!" A tiny minority who did know of Bradley Manning were emphatic in their belief that he is a traitor and were angered.

Overall the energy was very positive. One VVAW activist who has marched in DC and at many anti-war actions around the country said, "I definitely never received such strong and positive a response/reception by spectators. I noticed maybe 40 total people negatively reacting to the Bradley Manning support contingent out of maybe half a million. It was a great feeling of support I never felt before. REAL nice change of pace from what I've been used to."  We also understand that Bradley Manning's story and what it all means in the larger context of these expanding U.S. wars/occupations still needs to get out more broadly. To that end, the newly coalesced Chicago Bradley Manning support network has plans to march in three local parades over the July 4th weekend and beyond.