The San Francisco Pride Board has a new rationale for keeping former U.S. soldier and whistleblower Bradley Manning out of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Pride Parade as a grand marshal: He’s not local enough.
The position in Manning’s case would be largely symbolic. He is currently incarcerated at a military prison in Kansas awaiting trial on a number of serious charges, including aiding the enemy, all related to his leaking of classified information to the website Wikileaks. He was arrested in 2010.
The board released a statement last night asserting that the original nomination of Manning violated its procedures because Manning isn’t local enough. The exact definition of what constitutes local was not defined. The announcement drew the ire of protesters who had come to the board’s public meeting to ask that Manning be reinstated as a grand marshal.
The Pride Board in San Francisco originally caused a stir by inviting Manning, who is gay, as a grand marshal in the yearly parade, which will take place on June 30. Late last month the board revoked the invitation after complaints from outside groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans. The decision to remove Manning as a grand marshal has attracted protesters, national media coverage, and now, in an odd twist for Pride, a discrimination complaint filed by David Wagner, a gay activist and attorney.
“They denounced him for what he stands for politically as a whistleblower,” Wagner said. “Well, that’s illegal under San Francisco law. You can’t get money from the city and then turn around and discriminate against people on the basis of their moral convictions.”
Famed Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg attended the protest last night to further condemn the board’s decision. Ellsberg criticized the board as “echoing the administration’s false position” by saying that Manning had put Americans in harm’s way. “In three years, the administration has not produced any indication of any harm to any soldier or anyone else by his revelations,” Ellsberg said.
Pride Board president Lisa Williams released a statement last month that vilified Manning for “endangering U.S. servicemen and women.” In the board’s follow-up statement last night, it backtracked by saying that Manning isn’t being barred because of his beliefs, but for the technicality of not being from the immediate area. In his place, the board is considering either Drag Queen BeBe Sweetbriar or Associate Justice Jim Humes of the First District Court of Appeal.
The statement said: “Taking sides in the controversy concerning Mr. Manning’s conduct is not appropriate for the organization and falls outside its core mission. … SF Pride recognizes that becoming embroiled in the controversy concerning the merit of Mr. Manning’s conduct was an honest mistake.”
A throng of protesters chanted “shame on Pride!” and “they say court martial, we say grand marshal!” The board office only accommodates 15 people, so Manning supporters like Deepa Varna were shut out. “This is ridiculous,” she said, “If they weren’t afraid of what we had to say, they wouldn’t close the door on us.”
Ellsberg said the media uproar has been a boon for supporters of Manning. “The result of this will be that the support-Bradley-Manning contingent of Gay Pride will be enormously larger than it would have been otherwise,” he said. “They’ve really publicized it.”
Ellsberg said he wants Manning to be reinstated as a grand marshal, but that he’ll march for him regardless. “I hope that I will be riding a convertible when he’s reinstated as grand marshal. It will be easier on my legs.”
If Ellsberg attends the Pride Parade, it will be his first.