SF Pride: No honor for Manning
by James Patterson
The same week that gay Army private Bradley Manning faced a military judge in his court-martial at Fort Meade, Maryland, 3,000 miles away a judge of a different sort, the San Francisco Pride board of directors, met and affirmed its earlier decision: there will be no official honor for the whistle-blower at this year's parade.
The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board's statement, released at around 6:30 p.m. Friday, June 7, was brief and unsigned.
"None of the three main options we received from the community forum on May 31 garnered a consensus majority," the statement read.
Manning, 25, who has confessed to leaking 700,000 classified government documents to WikiLeaks, was initially named a parade grand marshal in late April. But the board quickly rescinded the honor and later said that he was not eligible for community grand marshal because he is not local.
Supporters of Manning have held demonstrations, crowded a Pride board meeting, and packed a community forum last month, all with the hopes of seeing Manning reinstated as a grand marshal. But the Pride board has not budged.
"I, for one, feel totally jerked around," said Lisa Geduldig, an early and vocal critic of the Pride board's actions concerning Manning.
Last week's statement seemed to signal an end to the board's involvement with the Manning controversy, saying in essence that the show will go on.
"... San Francisco Pride will continue to produce this year's Pride celebration to ensure a safe and joyful time for all attendees, as safety and security is our number one priority," the statement read.
It also said that the board appreciated "the vibrant diversity of our community, and look forward to advancing efforts to effectively 'educate the world, commemorate our heritage, celebrate our culture, and liberate our people.'"
When SF Pride CEO Earl Plante declared last month that there would be no more public meetings on Manning before the June 29-30 Pride events, gay Supervisor David Campos publicly asked the board to hold a community forum to hear comments from the public. The raucous event took place May 31 at Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco.
Campos attended the three-hour meeting and, after hearing impassioned speakers call Manning a hero and demand SF Pride reinstate him as a grand marshal, he asked the board to "reconsider" and look at other options for honoring Manning.
The options included reinstating Manning as a community grand marshal, letting the Bradley Manning contingent march at the beginning of the Pride parade, or honoring Manning in some other way. SF Pride agreed to consider the options and announce the decision within seven days.
The Pride board's decision was expected to come after 5 p.m. last Friday. A group of about 30, including Campos and gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), gathered outside SF Pride offices on Market Street to react to the decision, which came after most had left.
At 6 p.m. with no decision from SF Pride, Joey Cain, a former grand marshal and Pride board president, took the microphone to tell the crowd, "SF Pride had shown its contempt for the community" by not announcing their decision by the end of the day, as it had pledged.
In brief remarks, Ammiano said the issue was about a movement and the LGBT community "was not a moderate caucus of a club." He said grand marshals "are a part of the expression of who we are."
Campos said he was motivated to get involved in the issue because the decision on grand marshals needed to be "an open and inclusive process." San Francisco Pride's response to the Manning controversy was "a classic in how not to deal with a crisis," he said.
"They are their own worst enemy," Campos said of San Francisco Pride.
Rainey Reitman, 31 and a co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network, shared with the crowd some of her observations from attending the first days of Manning's court-martial in Maryland.
Reitman, who identifies as queer, said only 16 seats in the courtroom had been set aside for the public.
"Of 350 press passes, only 70 were granted," she said.
She said the government allowed no audio or visual coverage and provided no transcripts of the proceedings in concern, she said, that Manning's testimony, if heard, would "strike our hearts."
Sue Englander of Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club compared Manning to gay civil rights pioneer Bayard Rustin and to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She said the Pride board needed to understand "struggle is still a part of the LGBT community."
After the speeches, the crowd lingered in hopes of an announcement. Someone telephoned the Pride office and let the recorded message play to the crowd over loud speakers. The crowd laughed and applauded when they heard the message, "Mailbox is full."
Adding a bit of drama to the Manning controversy, Anonymous, described by Google executives Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen in their book The New Digital Age as a "hacking collective," issued an ominous 1,700-word statement that was shared on the Bay Area Reporter's Facebook page aimed at Pride board President Lisa Williams, complete with a video that uses voice distortion technology to read the statement to Williams.
Anonymous ended its statement to Williams with: "Lisa L Williams you have been warned. We are anonymous. We are legion. We do not forgive. We do not forget. Lisa L Williams it is too late to expect us, we are already here."
Requests for comments from Williams were not returned at press time.