Supporters of gay Army Private First Class Bradley Manning will gather tonight in San Francisco to protest his sentencing today (Wednesday, August 21) for leaking a massive trove of secret U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.
A military judge sentenced Manning to 35 years in prison for disclosing more than 700,000 government files to the online group, resulting in global media reports about America’s clandestine military and diplomatic activities around the world.
The sentence is the longest ever handed down in a case involving a leak of United States government information for the purpose of having the information reported to the public, noted the New York Times.
Manning, 25, will be eligible for parole in about seven years, his lawyer told reporters following the two-minute hearing this morning before Judge Army Col. Denise R. Lind. As part of his punishment, Manning will be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military.
Considered a hero by many progressives and free speech activists, Manning became a cause celeb within San Francisco’s LGBT community this year after the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee rescinded honoring him as a grand marshal at this year’s parade.
The controversy continues to flare within the local Pride organization, as several backers of Manning are now seeking to be elected to the board of directors that oversees the annual LGBT celebration at the end of June.
This evening a number of groups, both gay and straight, will be convening at 5 p.m. to protest the judge’s sentencing decision. Among the organizations are Courage to Resist, Veterans for Peace, World Can’t Wait, and LAGAI: Queer Insurrection. They will also be calling on President Barack Obama to pardon Manning.
The demonstration will take place at Justin Herman Plaza, which rally organizers are renaming Bradley Manning Plaza, at the foot of Market Street in downtown San Francisco across from the Ferry Building.
Speakers include Rainey Reitman, co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network; SF queer activist Tommi Avicolli-Mecca; and Sue Englander with the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, which bestowed its In His Footsteps Award on Manning at its gala this summer.