DETAILED REPORTS OF THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION TO FREE BRADLEY MANNING, 23 February 2013 - LONDON, ROME, PHILADELPHIA
London - England
In front of the US embassy
In London, over 60 people attended a protest outside the US embassy. Some people had travelled for hours to come from out of London. The picket and speak out was organized by Payday men’s Network and Queer Strike and Wise Up Action. The speakers stressed the plight of soldiers who are being punished for refusing to kill, torture and rape for the armies of the world, and named some from the US, Turkey and Israel, including Kimberly Rivera and Micah Turner.
Queer Strike stressed Bradley Manning is an LGBTQ whistleblower hero, following the tradition of other gay refuseniks like Stephen Funk in the US and Mehmet Tarhan in Turkey. A Chilean woman who had survived the Pinochet regime said she wished whistleblowers like Bradley Manning had been around then to warn people of what was coming. Other Latin American countries’ contribution for justice including Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador were recognised.
One person who’d been a long time Stop the WAR supporter asked why they had not even mentioned Bradley Manning at their recent conference and were not at the picket. Same was said about Stonewall. We all have a responsibility to keep campaigning until our courageous sisters and brothers inside who are whistleblowers and in there as a result of miscarriages of justice, like Mumia Abu Jamal, are free.
Whistle blowers like Birgitta Jonsdottir were also named, persecuted for being the co-producer of the infamous helicopter video Collateral Murder, and Aaron Swartz who was hounded to death after downloading, among other files, material which could be useful to jailhouse lawyers like Mumia-Abu Jamal.
Women Against Rape reiterated their support for Julian Assange, never accused of anything, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, protected from extradition to Sweden and to the US, where he would be treated like Bradley Manning.
Ronnie Barkan (Israeli refusenik. Anarchists Against the Wall and Boycott from Within) was a guest of honour, speaking about the case of Natan Blanc, 19-year old Israeli refusenik, jailed recurrently for the sixth time in a few weeks. He also raised the resistance of the Palestinian prisoners. Two of them Samer Al-Issawi and Ayman Sharawna have being on hunger strike for more than 200 days against Israel’s administrative detention, with no charges and no end in sight.
Messages of solidarity (see below) were sent from afar: by Hugo Blanco, director of Lucha Indigena, in Peru, ; and by Dario Fo (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1997) and Franca Rame (actor and his collaborator), in Italy. Also from Sue Glenton (mother of Joe Glenton, the first soldier in Europe who publicly refused to serve in Afghanistan); MP Ann Clwyd; Sevim Dagdelen, Member of the German Bundestag; and human rights activist Peter Tatchell.
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Rome - Italy
In front of the
As we walked through the rainy, and quite empty, streets of Rome to get from one location to the next, we gave out flyers about today’s international day of action calling for Bradley Manning to be freed, and found that hardly anyone had heard of him or knew anything about him! Although we were few, we were very motivated and managed to inform and draw the interest of many persons, both Italians and foreigners. It was heartening to know that actions/events were going on at the same time, as well as earlier and later today, to show support for Bradley Manning on his 1,000th day of unjust imprisonment. Exposing war crimes is a duty, not a crime!
I thought I’d add a short piece Greg wrote which was meant to be read out to the 50-odd group of protesters who had gathered today in front of the U.S. embassy in London. (Greg unfortunately couldn't join us, having come down with the flu, but was with us in this way.) I spoke with one of the organizers in London and we exchanged comments on our respective actions, but it wasn’t technically possible to read the message to them through their loudspeaker. But I thought I'd share it with you, because I think it’s so straight to the heart of things and heartfelt:
Forty something years ago Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers. The big newspapers supported him and showed great courage and published them all. Now Ellsberg is a hero. This young man Bradley did basically the same thing and he's been held for three years under terrible conditions. It's hard for me to believe that this kid is really so much of a threat to our country. The real threat comes from those who use fascist methods, including torture, to carry out policy. Perhaps that is the key word: policy. I have always loved my country and though it was obvious that bad things happened from time to time but, at least as far as I knew, it wasn't policy. We were better than that, I thought. To treat prisoners this way is a crime. It's the way terrorists operate. But not, I thought, The United States of America. Now the government behaves this way. And the courts allow it. I really wish the people would get their act together and stop this atrocity.
Philadelphia - USA
We had a good turnout, about 50 people despite the steady rain, outside Independence Hall in Philadelphia.
Many spoke, among them the Philadelphia-based aunt of Natan Blanc, a 19 year old Israeli who refuses to join the Israeli army of occupation, and has been imprisoned now for 7 consecutive terms of 2-3 weeks each.
The event’s focus was on Bradley, but connected with all the rest: with Palestinian hunger strikers, with Julian Assange, with other criminalized US whistleblowers and the hounding to death of Aaron Swartz with truth-telling prisoners Mumia Abu Jamal and Russell Maroon Shoatz, with the tradition of gay refusal in the military, with the principles established at Nuremberg, with the global Occupy movement, with the struggles of single mothers raising children…
Most of us really felt the strength that being together gives us.