In the wake of the debacle unleashed by San Francisco Pride’s announcement that gay whistleblower Bradley Manning would not be grand marshal for this year's Pride Parade after all, a large crowd of protesters assembled outside Pride’s Market Street headquarters April 29 for a hastily organized rally condemning the move. They held signs depicting Manning’s image, and chanted, “Grand marshal, not court martial!”
Famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who helped foment opposition to the Vietnam War by leaking classified government documents known as the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times in 1971, expressed support and admiration for the young US Army soldier. Manning was arrested in May of 2010 on suspicion of having leaked classified government cables and military footage later published by WikiLeaks, and faces a possible life sentence.
"A big mistake was made by the Board of Directors of SF Pride," Ellsberg said. Referencing director Lisa Williams' statement that not even a "hint" of support for Manning would be tolerated, Ellsberg said, "I don't hint at support for Bradley Manning. I couldn't be louder. I will be marching in that parade, for the first time for me, with a banner honoring Bradley Manning."
Gay Navy veteran John Caldera, commander of the Bob Basker Post 315 of the American Legion, an LGBT-focused veteran’s organization, announced that his members had voted unanimously to call for Williams' resignation, saying she had "negated and belittled all of the voices of the community" who had expressed support for Manning. He also condemned Pride for withholding its support for Manning while accepting funding from the likes of Wells Fargo, a banking giant responsible for foreclosures that have affected veterans. "The SF Pride committee has to put people first and corporations second," he said.
Joey Cain, a former grand marshal who said he nominated Manning, noted that he was not calling for Williams to resign, but hoped she would realize the mistake and reinstate him as grand marshal. "What he did was heroic ... Bradley made the world a better place," Cain said. He shamed Pride for straying so far from the roots of the gay movement. “We believed in radical inclusivity,” practicing tolerance for all “colors, genders and opinions,” he said, with the understanding that “We don’t all agree. We never will. But we’re sure never going to throw any part of the community under the bus.”
The rally was organized by longtime housing activist Tommi Mecca (pictured, center), comedian Lisa Geduldig and blogger Michael Petrelis.
Some counter-protesters from the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay GOP organization, even made an appearance. “We were praising the Pride Committee for not having selected Manning,” SF Log Cabin Republicans Fred Schein told the Bay Guardian.
Paul Bloom, a longtime activist, handed the Guardian a written statement on his take of the whole dustup, which he viewed as "an opportunity for people to unite in our understanding that there is no antiwar movement without gay people, and no movement for human rights that doesn’t envision an end to war.”
"Why does the SF Gay Pride Parade need corporate sponsorship, anyway?” Bloom wrote. “The parade must be brought back into the struggle as a part of it instead of remaining the grossly commercial spectacle it has become. We need to occupy the parade."