On Saturday, July 27, 2013 I attended my third Bradley Manning Solidarity Rally. Bradley Manning is an Army private and whistle-blower, who was arrested in May of 2010 for revealing classified information, both videotapes and documents, to Wiki Leaks.
I don’t recall, exactly, when I learned about Bradley Manning, but I do know that by the time I started #Occupying in October of 2011 I knew who he was and what he had done. I also realized, by that time, that the crimes he’d revealed were the catalyst for revolutions that were happening all over the world. By then the “Arab Spring” was fully reshaping the Middle East. I remember Julian Assange, from Wiki Leaks, being heavily covered in the media. At that time, I was in the midst of my own personal radicalization and the crimes of our government and the insidious corruption that consumes it were at the front of my attention.
The first Bradley Manning action I attended was on October 29th, 2011. #Occupy San Francisco or #OSF had a regularly scheduled rally and march each Saturday we had our encampment. On this particular Saturday, we had a visit by activist and filmmaker, Michael Moore. During his speech the attendees of the rally voted to rename Justin Herman Plaza, home of OSF’s second, larger encampment, to Bradley Manning Plaza. To this day we still refer to Justin Herman as Bradley Manning.
My second Bradley Manning Solidarity Rally was on December 17th, 2011. Our #OSF encampment had just suffered it’s biggest raid. It was a very challenging and painful time for San Francisco #Occupiers. I think that because of the adversity, we felt an incredible bond with each other and there was a pretty sizable turn out for this particular event.
We started the action with a march down Market St. in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district at around 3:00 p.m. from Bradley Manning Plaza. We marched with tents as protest symbols, Nancy M., one of my Code Pink friends, even wore a little-pink tent. We marched to the main branch of Wells Fargo where we had the first of our two planned rallies. A few members of my #Occupy family spoke and army vet Scott Olson, a victim of police violence at an #Occupy Oakland event, also spoke.
After the rally we marched to Sue Bierman Park, which was around the corner from our previous encampment at Bradley Manning. We had another rally and a potluck. Many of us set up tents and one of my fellow #Occupiers, Rise, set up a massive 20 foot tall canvas tent and we had a gathering inside. A police line immediately surrounded us, but the officers didn’t interfere with us until the 10p.m. curfew, at which time we packed up and left.
Last Saturday’s march and rally were a little less eventful and there were maybe, a quarter of the people than at the first two rallies I had previously attended. We gathered on the corner of Powell and Market and had a short rally with speakers and music, as we always do. My friend Montana, from Brass Liberation Orchestra was there with her big base drum and we had a couple of horns playing along. There was a line of folks, each holding a letter of the words, “free Bradley Manning and we all stood in a circle and listened. We then marched several blocks to union square where we had another brief rally. A pretty cute flash mob danced to Michael Jackson’s “They don’t really care about us”.
If you want to learn more about Bradley and his case here are some links to get you started.