SOME 200 activists from various cities gathered on the corner of 14th and P Streets in Washington, D.C., on July 26 for a rally and march in support of whistleblower Pfc. Bradley Manning, while a military judge heard closing arguments in Manning's court-martial.
The action took place outside the office of Major Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the convening authority overseeing Manning's trial. Buchanan has the power to reduce any sentence resulting from a conviction, including reduction to time served.
Manning, a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst, has been charged with over 20 counts, including espionage, computer fraud and "aiding the enemy," for leaking a trove of classified information to the website WikiLeaks. The information released to the public included the "Collateral Murder" video documenting a war crime in Iraq, information that exposed the unjust detainment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, and information that shows the human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Manning faces life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge.
Speakers at the rally talked on a range of topics, including the imprisonment of Yemini journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye for exposing a U.S. drone strike on a Yemini village. Because of Manning's leaks, we now know that Haider Shaye was kept in prison on President Obama's request.
A representative of the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation also announced that the foundation was awarding its 2013 Peace Prize to Manning for his "conspicuous bravery at the risk of his own freedom, above and beyond the call of duty." Previous recipients of the prize include Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich and Cindy Sheehan. Other speakers made connections between Manning's case and increasing attacks on whistleblowers and journalists under the Obama administration.
After the rally, activists marched around the base and through the neighborhood demanding the release of Manning from military custody and an end to the war on whistleblowers. Chants ranged from "Hey Buchanan, listen to me, Bradley Manning should be free" to "From Tunisia to Palestine, Manning's truth is no crime."
At the front of the march was a variety of creative placards and puppets, including a 20-foot placard of Bradley Manning blowing a whistle, an oversized Statue of Liberty placard also blowing a whistle, and a 15-foot walking puppet of Lady Justice. Organizations represented at the rally included the Bradley Manning Support Network, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation and the International Socialist Organization.