Groups show support for alleged military whistle-blower
Among the colorful and creative kites flown in Santa Monica to celebrate the U.N.’s International Day of Peace, one group stood in stark contrast. For them, the concept of peace has drifted from sight.
Members from the Bradley Manning Support Network, Courage to Resist, We Are Change LA, Code Pink, and various others joined together to support the International Days of Action in Solidarity with Bradley Manning on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 19. Around two dozen gathered at Palisades Park in Santa Monica, displaying banners, signs and literature to inform the public about Manning’s alleged actions and push for his release from detainment.
The group leafleted and directly approached passers-by, entreating them to learn about Manning. Laurel Burik, member of Bradley Manning Support Network and We Are Change LA, organized the event.
“Obama claimed to want to strengthen whistle-blower protection, but it’s just not happening,” said Burik. “It’s ending up being about them wanting to CTA [cover their asses].”
Manning is currently awaiting trial at a U.S. Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. He was charged with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice by leaking classified documents and multimedia “of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces,” as stated on his charge sheet.
One video, showing U.S. military opening fire on what appears to be a group of civilians and journalists in Bagdad, Iraq, received media attention in April. Wikileaks, a Web site devoted to whistle-blowing and exposing governmental misconduct around the globe, helped promote it by creating a stand-alone site at www.collateralmurder.com to showcase it separately from their main Web page.
“He exposed war crimes,” said Burik. “He should be considered a hero. It’s insane that he’s being treated like this.”
Sara Meric, activist and member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, was moved to action as soon as she heard of his arrest.
“I was horrified,” he said. “We can’t let them get away with this.”
Manning’s civilian attorney, David E. Coombs, released a statement on the Bradley Manning Support Network’s Web site saying that Manning is “very thankful … for the support that he has received so far.”
“Brad also told me that he looks forward to the day he can express his gratitude in person to those that have rallied to his defense,” stated Coombs.
Along with promoting Manning’s actions, the support group also hopes to raise money for his legal council.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has donated five thousand dollars toward the cause. Moore has publicly denounced U.S. military actions abroad and has sited the treatment of Manning as an example of the government’s priorities.
“Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq,” said Moore on his online blog. “An act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack.”
Dan Evans Farkas, music editor for Moore’s films “Sicko” and “Capitalism: A Love Story,” came out in support of the Santa Monica event.
“We’re showing him that we’ve got his back, as he’s done one of the most courageous acts in this whole debacle [in Iraq],” he said.
Farkas is an active member of New Jersey Peace Action, a grass roots organization dedicated to protesting and abolishing war. Referencing the low turnouts of past events, he expressed his need to continue through what he perceives to be apathy in activism.
“This is the only thing I can do other than feeling powerless or hopeless,” he said. “I can only call my senator so many times. We don’t seem to have any traction at the anti-war rallies, so here I am.”
The Bradley Manning Support Network’s Web site, www.bradleymanning.org, listed 21 rallies occurring in the U.S., Australia and Canada over the past four days. The rally in Santa Monica was the only listed event in the Los Angeles area.