Last week, a group of people who had paid to attend an Obama fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco interrupted the president’s speech with a song protesting the treatment of Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence specialist who is currently incarcerated for allegedly releasing classified documents to the website WikiLeaks. (Manning had been held in isolation at the Marine brig in Quantico, Va. for over nine months without a trial before being moved to Leavenworth last week.)
One of the president’s serenaders at the St. Regis was Elizabeth Stephens, an artist and professor of performance, installation, and sculpture at UC Santa Cruz. I interviewed her yesterday about the group’s motivation for the action (which she maintains wasn’t a protest but a “gift to the president”); how it came about; and what it was like to take part in something that could end up attracting the attention of the Secret Service in a dangerous way.
Her answers provide an interesting look at the nuanced if not conflicting feelings that the Democratic base have about Obama. Stephens said the cohort, who had donated tens of thousands of dollars to attend the Democratic National Committee fundraiser, was “full of love” for the president, but wanted to let him know what their disappointments with him were, especially as related to issues of national security and to the Bradley Manning case. She also said she was impressed with Obama on a personal level when she met him afterward,.
The interview below:
Elizabeth Stephens on how the protest came about and its influences
On U.S. treatment of Bradley Manning and other national security issues
“It wasn’t really a protest. Our hearts were full of love for this guy.”
On the legal advice the group received
On the fear she felt before she started singing