Bradley Manning is escorted out of a Maryland courthouse in 2012. (Reuters/Jose Luis Magana.)
At the end of April, the San Francisco LGBT Pride Committee announced that Bradley Manning, a Nobel Peace Prize–nominated gay veteran and whistleblower currently languishing inside a military prison for releasing classified military documents to Wikileaks, would be a grand marshal at this year’s pride parade. But mere hours after the news broke, San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee President Lisa Williams released a statement rescinding the honor and calling the decision “a mistake that never should have been allowed to happen.”
The controversy has divided the LGBT military community and drawn significant attention to what some critics have seen as Pride’s backing away from contentious issues and embracing of corporate sponsors. As a long time queer youth and antiwar activist, I couldn’t keep silent.
Let’s start with William’s own words. Williams claims, “the hint of support for actions that placed in harm’s way the lives of our men and women in uniform…will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It…would be, an insult.” But contrary to William’s intentional misrepresentation of the facts, investigations have demonstrated that no military personal have been harmed as a result of Manning’s actions. Rather, Manning’s bravery has revealed to Americans the gruesome reality behind US wars and occupations abroad. The only people endangered by Manning’s actions are the politicians and military officials accountable for engineering, covering up and justifying the US war efforts.
Most glaring in William’s statement is her blatant disregard for the lives of LGBTQ people beyond the borders of American soil. What about the violence carried out by US military forces against the LGBTQ people of Iraq and Afghanistan? The death and destruction inflicted by military drones against the people of Pakistan and Yemen, plenty of them queer? Or the countless LGBTQ Palestinians forced to endure the trauma of living under Israeli apartheid and occupation in Gaza and the West Bank? Do the lives of Arab, Muslim and brown queer people, and what Bradley Manning’s actions have done to highlight the injustices carried out against them by our government, not matter to the San Francisco Pride Committee?
While the board feels it necessary to bar Manning from the post of grand marshal, they are more then willing to embrace a slew of corporate sponsors that commit enormous levels of economic violence on working-class and poor communities and violate countless laws and regulations in their pursuit for profit. Writing in The Guardian, a publication that picked Manning as its “Person of the Year” in 2012, blogger Glenn Greenwald highlighted how corporations like AT&T, Bank of America and Wells Fargo underwrite San Francisco Pride for their own marketing purposes.