Queer Strike Report of SanFrancisco Pride Meeting on Bradley Manning

On Tuesday May 7, 2013, a crowd gathered outside San Francisco Pride office for a public meeting on reinstating Bradley Manning as Pride Grand Marshal. They were responding to SF Pride Board's statement saying that Bradley Manning could not be the Grand Marshal because only local people qualified but had promised a public meeting so people could air their views.  The crowd attempted to go to the meeting but there was one elevator and the front door to the building was locked down.  SF Pride security let five people into the elevator at a time but turned down anyone with a camera including the press.  There was shouting, chanting – everyone demanding to be allowed into the meeting.  Ultimately, the handful of people who got in and spoke were insulted at being given one minute each, most were left outside in the cold.  Pride promised to find a larger room, but then turned around and released a statement saying there would be NO more discussion of this issue till after the Pride event.

In response ‘Grand Marshal, Not Court Marshal', an ad hoc group of organizations and individuals called for a ‘Mock SF Pride Board meeting’ on Tuesday May 14.  About 75 people arrived outside the Pride office, with nine empty chairs, each labeled with the name of a Pride Board member. A lively speak out proceeded with  the statements that were intended for the original public hearing, but as a street theatre. This Board reinstated Bradley Manning as Pride Grand Marshal, Victory!  A larger crowd then attended a panel on Bradley Manning across the street called by  the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.  The TV cameras followed us to this meeting. 

What was striking about both events was that speakers raised a wide range of issues, starting with Bradley Manning and the situation of veterans, suicide, PTSD, the poverty draft, and drug addiction.  We were against war and occupations, homelessness, evictions, for healthcare and community resources, against NGOs like Pride who have assisted in a corporate takeover of Pride and the whole city. Lesbian/queer women spoke about the burden of unwaged work women do taking care of everyone destroyed by war.  Our history as LBGT people starting with Stonewall, against the Vietnam war, fighting homophobic attacks against us etc. also came out. Our pain and anger was coming to the surface.  In the end Bradley Manning has become the lightning rod for all of us to come together and take back the city from “a rich elite who want to turn San Francisco into a gated community”.

Pressure against SF Pride is building. There are legal actions pending with the Human Rights Commission and City (saying that elders and people with disabilities were denied access to a public meeting).  Any non-profit organization, like Pride, must abide by the procedures to allow the public to participate in their process.  There must be transparency. There are questions being raised about the election process with city officials.  Bradley Manning won the highest number of votes in the electoral  college, the way all grand marshalls are elected, but an executive decision was made to ignore these results and have another election. SF Green Party and others have called for the resignation of the Pride Board president Lisa Williams.  David Campos, a Latino gay supervisor (on SF Board of Supervisors) sent a letter to the Pride Board to press them about to have a public hearing.  City Hall may be opened for a debate.  We are looking at how more pressure can be applied, from whatever our situation is. We are feeling the impact of the Occupy movement, which is with us still and grassroots LGBTQ people are on the move.  A big contingent supporting Bradley Manning as grand marshal is being planned for the Pride march.