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SF Pride Backlash Continues, Peter Thatchell And Others Respond To Removal of Bradley Manning

SF PrideThe backlash continues against SF Pride as Britain’s best know human rights and LGBT social movement advocate and activist Peter Thatchell among others has responded to San Francisco Pride’s Executive Director Lisa William’s statement released on Friday about the “mistake” of appointing PFC  Bradley Manning as Honorary Grand Pride Marshall at its 2013 Pride festivities.

Manning who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed classified material to the website WikiLeaks which included videos of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike which showed an American helicopter firing on a group of men in Baghdad which were a journalist, and two other Reuters employees, the 2009 Granai airstrike in Afghanistan which killed approximately 86 to 147 Afghan civilians and 250,000 United States diplomatic cables which were widely seen as a catalyst for the Arab Spring.

Wrote Thatchell:

San Francisco Pride has revoked the nomination of gay rights advocate & military whistleblower Private Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal of this year’s Pride parade.  SF Pride leaders are wrong on facts, ethics & politics. Bradley revealed US war crimes & cover ups.

Manning is a hero – a defender of democracy and human rights, based on the principle that citizens have a right to know what the government is doing in their name. Bradley should not be in prison. The charges should be dropped. Set him free. Instead, put on trial those US soldiers who killed innocent civilians and those who protected the perpetrators.

Bradley Manning is a true patriot, not a traitor. Bradley reveres the founding ideals of the US – the ideal of an open, honest government accountable to the people, that pursues its policies by lawful means and respects human rights.

At great personal risk, Manning sought to expose grave crimes that were perpetrated and then hidden by the US government and military. These are the characteristics of a man of conscience, motivated by altruism. There is no evidence that his leaks harmed anyone. Thanks to Manning, we, the people, know the truth.

Bradley Manning acted in the spirit of the gay liberation pioneers. Make Bradley Grand Marshal of San Francisco Pride.”

Peter Tatchell

Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation

SF  Pride’s Executive Director’s Lisa Williams statement on Friday removing Manning as honorary Pride Grand Marshall in reality has caused even a bigger backlash against the organization due to Williams outrageous handling of it in which she not only blamed a lowly SF Pride staffer but also personalised her  highly negative feelings while admitting that the committee of former San Francisco Pride grand marshals who makes the decision of who will be Pride Marshall’s did indeed select the 25-year-old Manning, who is openly gay, for the honor, but the Pride Board decided his choice would be a mistake (after grumblings from a handful od politically connected LGBT military advocates, Gay Inc. and corporate sponsors)

Wrote Williams in her statement:

Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration…..that was an error and that person has been disciplined…….a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen.….will not be tolerated…..a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified. SF Pride repudiates this vote. Bradley Manning….will not serve as an official participant in the SF Pride Parade.

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.

As Kevin Gosztola of Fire Dog Lake  is quick to point out 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.  Gostola also reveals that the bio for Williams on the SF Pride page shows she works for a “political consulting and community advocacy” group that serves Democratic Party politics and that 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.

Glenn Greenwald of the UK Guardian whose article titled: “Bradley Manning is off-limits at SF Gay Pride parade, but corporate sleaze is embraced”  also points out SF Prides “ethical standards” aren’t really all that ethical after all

Manning will not be tolerated but there is a long roster of large corporations serving as the event’s sponsors who are welcomed with open arms.  The list is here. It includes AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens by the Bush administration and its NSA, only to get retroactively immunized from Congress and thus shielded from all criminal and civil liability (including a lawsuit brought in San Francisco against those corporations by their customers who were illegally spied on). Last month, AT&T was fined by OSHA for failing to protect one of its employees who was attacked, was found by the FCC last year to have overcharged customers by secretly switching them to plans they didn’t want, and is now being sued by the US government for “allegedly bill[ing] the government improperly for services designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing who place calls by typing messages over the web.”

The list of SF Pride sponsors also includes Bank of America, now being sued for $1 billion by the US government for allegedly engaging in a systematic scheme of mortgage fraud which the US Attorney called “spectacularly brazen in scope”.

Another beloved SF Pride sponsor, Wells Fargo, is also being “sued by the US for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages over claims the bank made reckless mortgage loans that caused losses for a federal insurance program when they defaulted”. Last year, Wells Fargo was fined $3.1 million by a federal judge for engaging in conduct that court called “highly reprehensible” relating to its persecution of a struggling homeowner. 

Also in Good Standing with the SF Pride board: Clear Channel, the media outlet owned by Bain Capital that broadcasts the radio programs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.

So apparently, the very high-minded ethical standards of Lisa L Williams and the SF Pride Board apply only to young Army Privates who engage in an act of conscience against the US war machine.

Weather Manning was a good choice or a bad choice that is besides the point now.  Whats now become the focus now is not only the issue of integrity and double standards on SF Prides part but also on the leaders of the LGBT community whose fear of upsetting the connected few and the political machine is nuetering and silencing community from speaking out  freely making statements while they take millions from corporations that have hurt us and the American people.

Is this the price we will have to pay for our equality?

But in the end the better question is if this really the  way we want to achieve it.

 

 

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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