LGBTQ leaders uphold selection of Bradley Manning as SF Pride grand marshal

  • Ran as a full page ad (PDF) in the SF Bay Reporter, May 15, 2013
  • Donate here to help us publish this open letter in San Francisco, including the SF Bay Reporter and SF Chronicle.
  • Encourage SF PRIDE! to reinstate Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshal – SF Pride Offices: 415.864.0831; SF Pride President Lisa Williams: 415.424.9660; [email protected]; Fax: 415.864.5889
  • Are you an LGBTQ member interested in signing this statement? Please contact: [email protected] and include how you would like to be described in the signature
  • Statement first published by the San Francisco Bay Guardian

By LGBT Community Leaders. May 2, 2013

Recently, it was announced that PFC Bradley Manning would be a grand marshal of the 2013 San Francisco Pride Celebration. We felt this decision was a bold and uplifting choice, bestowing a great May honor on a young whistleblower being persecuted for following his conscience.

Much to our disappointment, two days later SF Pride board president Lisa Williams issued a separate announcement that the SF Pride board would not be honoring PFC Manning as a grand marshal after all.  It appears the SF pride board’s reversal was affected by criticism from a recently formed gay military rights group.  

We want the world to know that the SF Pride board’s decision is not reflective of the LGBTQ community as a whole, and that many of us proudly celebrate PFC Manning as a member of our community.  Unfortunately, the statements by Williams, and the group which originally advocated against PFC Manning as grand marshal, continue to perpetuate certain factual inaccuracies with regards to the military prosecution against him.  

Bradley Manning, while active duty, at a Washington DC Pride march, summer 2009

Bradley Manning, while on active duty, at a Washington DC Pride march, summer 2009

The first inaccuracy would be that PFC Manning did not advocate for gay rights.  In fact, while serving in the military, PFC Manning experienced harassment and physical assault because of his perceived sexuality.  He responded by marching against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in the DC pride parade, where he spoke to reporters about his position, in addition to attending a fundraiser with Gavin Newsom and the Stonewall Democrats so he could discuss the issue of homophobia in the military.  He told a friend in February of 2009 that his experience living under DADT and experiencing the oppression that entailed helped increase his interest in politics more generally.

LGBTQ activists fought hard for years to win the right to live free from the fear that we could be targeted with violence deemed acceptable to society at large, simply for being who we are.  We members of the LGBTQ community would like to stand in solidarity with others around the world who still must live in fear of violence and oppression, simply for being born into a particular group.

Contrary to SF Pride Board president Lisa Williams’s claim, no evidence has been presented that PFC Manning’s actions endangered fellow soldiers or civilians.  In fact, the military prosecution has successfully argued in court that it isn’t required to provide such evidence, and former State Department spokesperson P.J. Crowley continues to insist that the “Aiding the enemy” charge is unwarranted.  

In a February 28, 2013, court statement, PFC Manning detailed the due diligence he performed prior to releasing materials to ensure this lack of harm, in addition to explaining,

“I believed the detailed analysis of the [Iraq and Afghanistan war log] data over a long period of time by different sectors of society might cause society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the affected environment every day.”

Bradley Manning attending a fundraiser with Gavin Newsom and the Stonewall Democrats, summer 2009.

Bradley Manning attending a fundraiser with Gavin Newsom and the Stonewall Democrats, summer 2009.

The truth is that President Bush and VP Cheney’s aggressive wars in the Middle East endangered far more LGBTQ service members and civilians than any Army whistle-blower.  Unlike PFC Manning, however, they have never served prison time, and likely never will.

Millions of people around the world support Bradley for the personal risk he took in sharing realities of complicated U.S. foreign conflicts with the American people.  He is the only gay U.S. serviceperson to be nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize.  In joining the Army, soldiers take an oath to protect the U.S. Constitution, and we believe that by his actions PFC Manning strengthened our democracy, and fulfilled that oath to a greater degree than most enlisted.

We are proud to embrace PFC Bradley Manning as one of our icons, and intend to march for him in pride contingents across the country this year, as we have in years past.  We think Bradley Manning sets a high standard for what a U.S. serviceperson, gay or straight, can be.

Organizations listed for identification purposes only

Lt. Dan Choi – 2009 SF Pride Celebrity Grand Marshal, anti-DADT activist
Joey Cain – 2008 SF Pride Community Grand Marshal, past Board Member and President of SF Pride
Gary Virginia – 2012 SF Pride Community Grand Marshal
Kate Raphael – 2004 SF Pride Community Grand Marshal; LAGAI – Queer Insurrection
Dr. Carol Queen – 2008 SF Pride Honorary Grand Marshal, 2001 SF Pride Community Grand Marshal, writer, speaker, educator and sex-positive activist
Barry Saiff – 2002 SF Pride Honorary Grand Marshall, Former President of BiNet USA
John O’brien - 1970 Inaugatory Pride Committee member; Stonewall Rebellion Co-Organizer
John Caldera – Commander, American Legion Bob Basker Post 315ED & SF Veterans For Peace
Alice Walker – Pulitzer Prize winning author, poet, womanist, and activist
Leslie Feinberg - Transgender author and activist
Glenn Greenwald - Award-winning journalist
Minnie-Bruce Pratt - Award-winning lesbian writer, anti-racist & anti-imperialist activist
David McReynolds - War Resisters League; first openly gay U.S. presidential candidate
Stephen Eagle Funk - Artistic Director, Veteran Artists
Marshall Brown - United States Air Force veteran
Becca von Behren - Staff Attorney, Swords to Plowshares Veterans Service Organization
Peter Tatchell - Founder, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Troy Abraham - President Of Human Equality Organizations
Luke Adams - Community mental health counselor, minister, and organizer
Orus Barker -Bradley Manning supporter
Dr. Gray Brechin - author Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin
Susie Bright - Public speaker, educator, and writer
Adele Carpenter – Civilian-Soldier Alliance, SF Chapter
Merrill Cole - Associate Professor of English, Western Illinois University
Gabriel Conaway – Equality activist; Steering Committee of SAME
Salvatore Conti -Kansas Bradley Manning Support
Su Docekal – Queer Action Coordinator; Freedom Socialist Party; Co-founder, Seattle’s Freedom Day Committee
Dossie Easton – Therapist and author
Rena-paulette Guay - Executive Director, Oklahoma Center for Conscience and Peace Research; Co-founder, Tampa Bay Lesbian & Gay Pride March
Joan P. Gibbs, Esq. – National Conference of Black Lawyers
Evan Greer – Radical queer riotfolk musician
Liz Henry – Poet and activist
Liz Highleyman – journalist and member of ACT UP, San Francisco
Lori Hurlebaus – Civilian Soldier Alliance,  SF Chapter; Co-founder, Courage to Resist
Pat Humphries – Musician, Emma’s Revolution
Sergei Kostin -  Art Director, CODEPINK Women for Peace
Sandy Opatow – Musician, Emma’s Revolution
Malachy Kilbride – Coordinating Committee, National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance
Drew Langdon - Lavender Green Caucus; Candidate for Rochester, NY City Council
Kendall Lovett – Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
Jill McLaughlin – World Can’t Wait Steering Committee
Tommi Avicolli Mecca – queer activist, writer and performer, editor of Smash the Church, Smash the State: the early years of gay liberation.
Pamela Means – Award-winning OUT musician 
Lori Nairne – Queer Strike, SF Bay Area
Robert Ostertag – Musician and artist
Anne Phoenix – Queer Strike, UK
Starlene Rankin - Lavender Green Caucus co-chair (Green Party)
Rainey Reitman – Steering Committee, Bradley Manning Support Network
Michelle Robidoux – Co-founder, War Resisters Support Campaign
Mannie De Saxe - Lesbian and Gay Solidarity
Martha Shelley – Co-founder, Gay Liberation Front; Radicalesbians, NYC
Oliver Shykles – Queer Friends of Bradley Manning
Starchild – Libertarian National Committee member, sex worker, pro-freedom activist, former candidate for District 8 Supervisor
Jan Steckel - Bisexual Author and Activist
Jon Sugar – Founder, Gay Artist and Writers Kollective; former KPFA radio personality
Andy Thayer – Co-founder, Gay Liberation Network
Lori Selke – Author and activist
Curt Wechsler – editor, Fire John Yoo
Sherry Wolf – author, Sexuality and Socialism
Kit Yan – Queer & trans Asian-American poet
Lee Zaslofsky – Co-founder, War Resisters Support Campaign
Russell Zellers - Former Assistant Director, HIV Health Services AIDS Office, SFDPH


Supporters of Bradley Manning marching in SF Pride 2011. Join us again this year on Sunday, June 30, 2013.


31 thoughts on “LGBTQ leaders uphold selection of Bradley Manning as SF Pride grand marshal

  1. Bradley Manning is an exemplary human being. I am sure he is flawed in many ways as the rest of us. However he saw wrong being done by the American politicians and military and he obeyed a higher authority – his conscience.

    I am immensely inspired by Bradley, for his courage and his actions. I wish him well and I sincerely hope the evil and persecution done against him will relent soon and he will be freed.

    I am disappointed by the journalists who are not on this issue, like the way for instance during watergate. And I am also deeply saddened by SF Pride board president Lisa Williams to not honor Bradley as a grand marshal. Lisa would do well to review the facts and retract her decision, lest she loses all credibility with the entire LGBTQ group.

    • Peter- I was taken by your sincere simply stated words. Its nice to read things from people in touch with themselves.sending sunshine, ks

  2. As concerned Canadian queer activists, Bradley Manning is a gay hero representing the anti-imperial and anti-colonial struggles of oppressed people under US military occupation. Without Bradley, would there have been an Arab Spring, or any media scrutiny into the duplicitous politics that rendered innocent people to a Guantanamo prison or would international outrage against the callous killing of a Reuter’s reporter in Iraq ever made it to the fron page without Bradley’s courageous whistle-blowing. We knew the US invasion of Iraq was illegal and we wholeheartedly uphold Manning’s grand marshal honour @ the SF Pride Parade. Resisting illegal wars and US imperialism is every LGBT’s responsibility…injustice to Bradley is an injustice to all. Whistleblower rights to ALL!!!
    Rhonda & Davis Mirza-Costas
    TOronto, CANADA

  3. I, too, strongly support Bradley Manning as an LGBTQ hero. If I march at Pride this year, I fully intend to wear or carry a statement to that effect. OMO, his courageous actions have brought honor to our community.


  4. I’m a gay Army Vet and I support my gay brother Bradley 100% Every soldier has a moral duty to report crimes and Bradley was the only soldier with a backbone to do it,while other soldiers turned their backs to the crimes.He’s more of a man than all the other soldiers. Free Bradley Manning

  5. This is good – support for Manning! Better? – disassociate totally from SFPride. Create alternative event(s) (occupy LGBTQ representation for 99%). SFPride is being used by 1% as another Trojan Horse. Shun the organization and actually fight for the rights they say they support.

  6. Bradley Manning is a stalwart hero and has done more to reveal the true nature of US military and foreign policies and their dire nature than any US journalist, though many have made use of the documents he revealed, which all the world needs to know. President Obama’s ongoing attacks on whistleblowers are shameful, including stating publicly that Manning was guilty before he was ever even charged. When will national GLBT groups speak up to protect this gay brother. Where are you HRC, PGLAG, NGTF, and the various gay centers around the nation??? We should let them know we expect them to speak up.

  7. @ Alan Kurtz

    I followed your link to allvoices above and read your post, and I must say that I was most dismayed to read your selfish, egotistical and self-centered rant.

    I’m retired now and live in Mexico, where I have lived for a number of years. But I was quite active in the GLBT movement back in the 1980s, some 30 years ago.

    A prominent quote at that time amongst GLBT activists was what Martin Luther King once said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And I wonder how King’s transcendent idealism can be reconciled with the new breed of GLBT activist, like you and Lisa L. Williams, who has reduced GLBT activism to nothing more than very narrow, special-interest advocacy. The answer of course is that it can’t. For you and Williams it’s no longer about human rights, but solely about LGBT rights. For you it’s about nothing more than, as you so crassly put it, “Manning’s contributions to the LGBT cause.” You question whether “Manning was motivated to help the LGBT people of Iraq” and whether “Manning has failed the LGBT community.” I ask of you and Williams: “Are you failing the community of man?”

    I would point you to the speech King made at Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967, now known as “Why I am opposed to the War in Vietnam.”

    “Yes, we must stand, and we must speak,” King implored. “I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam.”

    “Many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path,” King continued. “At the heart of their concerns, this query has often loomed large and loud: ‘Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent?’ Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say.’ And so this morning, I speak to you on this issue, because I am determined to take the Gospel seriously. And I come this morning to my pulpit to make a passionate plea to my beloved nation.”

    Perhaps one of the most telling honors ever ever bestowed upon Manning was what Jeremy Scahill, author of “Dirty Wars,” said of Manning in this interview:

    It would be “impossible to quantify the significance” of the information released by Wikileaks, whose source is believed to have been Manning, in “the understanding of overt and covert US actions,” Scahill says. Those covert actions included, as Scahill goes on to explain, the hunting down and murder of people by warlords hired by the US covert ops in various African countries. “We’re going to look back decades from now and realize that because of the release of those documents there was a huge shift in how we understand some of the more hidden aspects of US policy,” he concludes.

    Bradley Manning was not a GLBT hero, he was just a hero. And that is true for anyone posessed of more transcendent and universal values, whether they be gay or straight, black or white, American or Iraqi.

    • Martin Luther King and the Stonewall resisters wouldn’t have been welcome in Lisa Williams’ parade. It’s important to note Williams’,and the Pride board’s, close connections to the Democratic Party corporate-militarist wing. This is no accident.

  8. I am deeply disappointed by the decision of Williams and the Pride board. It seems contradictory to the whole concept of Pride. I thought we were working for inclusion and respect. This decision furthers neither of those. What does that tell us about who we are as a community? Are we perpetuating the discrimination that we work so hard to overcome?

  9. It’s a travesty that Manning had his Grand Marshal recognition taken away by that Lisa Williams. I thought it was so newsworthy that I posted it in my blog..

  10. Is Williams still the Board President? If so, she should resign or be removed in disgraced. She has besmirched the reputation of this community.

  11. Thanks all you good people for standing with Bradley Manning and against the corrupt elements who are buying out gay liberation for commodification and profit.

  12. I searched the internet and read as much of the commentary emanating from LGBT neoconservatives that I could find. And what one finds is a solitary focus on “our community”. It’s like the endless repetition of “we, we, we, we.” It represents a complete turning away from the universal morality of the Civil Rights Movement, and the turning towards a parvenu-morality.

    “Moral values must be universal; if they are to be real,” Reinhold Niebuhr told us. “Evil is always the assertion of self-interest without regard to the whole.” And the whole, according to the teachings of Martin Luther King, is “the Brotherhood of Man.” “All men are created equal. Every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth. Every man has rights that are neither conferred by, nor derived from, the State,” he counseled.

    The subversion of the Brotherhood of man in favor of nationalism is one of the five “fundamental propositions” of neoliberalism which Andrew J. Bacevich identifies in “The New American Militarism.” As Bacevich explains, Norman Podhoretz, the godfather of neoconservatism, believed the 1960s had been a disaster. In the magazine he founded in 1960 and which became the lifeblood of neoconservatism, Commentary, Podhoretz promoted what he called “a new nationalism.” As Bacevich explains:

    “Thus, part of the task that Podhoretz set for himself was to discredit what he saw as the various forms of nonsense to which the sixties had given rise — prominent among them multiculturalism, affirmative action, radical feminism, and the gay rights movement.”

    Podhoretz and other prominent neoconservatives who came in his wake — Irving Kristol, William Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Kagan, Michael Ledeen, Frederick W. Kagan, Max Boot, David Brooks, Lawrence Kaplan, David Frum, Richard Perle, etc. — thus resorted to an age-old method to legitimize nationalism. “The best means of harmonizing the claim to universality with the unique and relative life of the nation,” Niebuhr explains, “is to claim general and universally valid objectives for the nation. It is alleged to be fighting for civilization and for culture; and the whole enterprise of humanity is supposedly involved in its struggles.” Thus, in neoliberal lore, everything becomes subordinate to national objectives, the essence of which, according to Bacevich, was “to fuse American power with American principles and subsequently their propagation to the benefit of all humankind.” Perhaps no one has ever summed up the method pursued by the neoconservative faithful more succinctly than Hernán Cortés’ devoted companion, the historian Bernal Díaz del Castillo: “We came here to serve God and the king, and also to get rich.”

    King excoriated “the new nationalism” as a “superficial patriotism.” He deemed it “a cruel manipulation of the poor” and “an enemy of the poor” that was “devastating the poor at home.” He called for a more transcendent and universal morality which went “beyond the calling of race or nation.” As Bacevich notes, the neoliberal polemicists deployed a “take no prisoners,” “give no quarter” rhetorical style that portrayed its version of truth as “self-evident and beyond dispute.” King recoiled to this pugnacity which sought to “equate dissent with disloyalty”:

    “It’s a dark day in our nation when high-level authorities will seek to use every method to silence dissent. But something is happening, and people are not going to be silenced. The truth must be told, and I say that those who are seeking to make it appear that anyone who opposes the war in Vietnam is a fool or traitor or an enemy of our soldiers is a person that has taken a stand against the best in our tradition.”

    King’s entire sermon from which King’s above quotes came can be heard here

  13. Also, there’s quite an amazing documentary where Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers who was on the ground and came upon the aftermath of the “Collateral Murder” incident (the video of which Manning has now admitted he released to Wikleaks) concludes:

    “I wanted to be that soldier, that hero. So I went, and realized…that there was no enemy. The only terrorists when I was in Iraq was us.”

    Another part of the video, with the close-up photos of the wounded children in the van that was shot up in the “Collateral Murder” video, was also heart-wrenching:

    According to McCord, he had seen far worse incidents of the slaughter of children than this, along with unfathomable callousness on the part of some of his fellow soldiers in regards to the children. In the end, McCord and two other soldiers featured in the video couldn’t take it any longer. For anyone with a scintilla of compassion, empathy, and conscience, these incidents, along with the heartlessness of some of their fellow soldiers (like the Sergeant Shirfield who McCord describes), just eats them up alive from the inside.

    McCord’s statement about having witnessed far worse incidents than that recorded in the “Collateral Murder” video is consistent with Manning’s testimony to the court-martial court. Manning’s testimony was recorded and released to the press illegally, because the judge conducting the tribunal had ordered Manning’s testimony to remian secret. Manning testified that he gave Wikileaks another video that showed an incident even more disturbing than the “Collateral Murder” video from Iraq. Of the Iraqi “Collateral Murder” video, Manning said he was alarmed by the pilots’ “delightful blood lust” in the video as they conducted an air strike that killed 12 innocent Iraquis and wounded two children. Afterwards, Manning said in his testimony to the court, the pilots congratulated each other on their ability to kill and maim people so effortlessly.

    Manning testified the other video showed an airstrike in the Garani Village in Farah Province, northwestern Afghanistan. In it between 100 and 150 civilians, mostly women and children, were murdered by a US aerial weapons team. He said that the incident was similar to that shown in the “Collateral Murder” video, but it was “even more disturbing” than the Iraqi event.

    We seem to have come full circle back to the Vietnam era. As Martin Luther King put it: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

    “There’s something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press,” King continues, “that will praise you when you say, ‘Be non-violent toward Jim Clark,’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children.’ There’s something wrong with that press!”

  14. Lisa Williams said Bradley was just gay, not an activist for gay causes, as she tripped over herself looking for justification for an unjustifiable removal. Would she have also refused these folks?
    Walt Whitman, fired as editor of a paper for his radical “Barnburner” free-soil Democrat views, by his conservative Democrat publisher boss.
    Emma Goldman, anarcha-feminist and early gay liberationist, served two years in prison for urging young men to refuse the draft during World War I.
    Harry Hay, founder of Mattachine in L.A. and an ex-Communist Party cadre, cared equally about Native Americans and queers.
    James Baldwin, one of a handful of “out” writers in the 50s, carried on a political romance with the Black Panther Party to the dismay of J. Edgar Hoover in the 60s.
    And our own Harvey Milk, who came to SF after quitting his stockbroker job in Manhattan over disgust at the US invasion of Cambodia.
    Perhaps Ms. Williams role as a “boutique poliitical consultant” does not best qualify her for recognizing heroes.

  15. I support Bradley Manning. Lisa Williams and the SF Pride Board should have the courage to reinstate him as a Grand Marshall.It is wonderful to see all these supporters here.

  16. San Francisco LGBTQ Pride Parade Board = COP OUT!!! Correct simple solution:
    SF LGBTQ Pride and many other LGBTQ Prides around the world have had more then one Grand Marshal. So appoint Hero Bradley Manning one of this year’s Grand Marshals.

  17. I was very angry when I found out Williams & the Pride Board had decided to reject Bradley Manning, based on the objections of a few protesters, which included Gay Republicans & military vets. I have lived in San Francisco since the mid 70′s and the Harvy Milk days. Bradley Manning represents what San Francisco is all about, then and still today. If Lisa Williams and the protesters have such a difficult time with Manning being Grand Marshal here, than maybe they should go to some other city’s gay parade where someone noncontroversial would be acceptable. Like Tampa or Dallas. I, like most others, want Manning put back as Grand Marshal, and to also appoint a new Board President and maybe some different board members. Next year, the vetting process should be better for chosing board president & members.

  18. Bonsoir à vous toutes et tous. I don’t give a damn, if PFC Bradley Manning is gay or not. I think he is a good person, he did what every good human should do. All wistleblowwers help us to keep standing up, in this period of big incertitude. Thank you, Brad, you aren’t alone. I sign: Fontaine Étienne.

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