Join the Fight for Bradley Manning

 This Saturday, June 4, Private First Class Bradley Manning supporters and The Bradley Manning Support Network will converge in Leavenworth, Kansas to defend the twenty-three-year-old, openly gay soldier accused of leaking classified government information. With signs and visuals in hand, activists will gather at Memorial Park and march towards Fort Leavenworth before holding a vigil a few blocks short of the facility’s main entrance. 

An effort to demand the government protect whistle-blowers and drop the charges against Manning, the action will be supporters’ first public rally since Manning’s April 20th transfer to Fort Leavenworth from maximum-security U.S. Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, where supporters say he suffered nine months of extreme and unusual confinement.

Manning’s improved conditions of incarceration are a testament to the power of his supporters. Now detained at the medium-security prison Fort Leavenworth, Manning is no longer held under the prevention of injury watch that prompted his harsh living conditions. At night, he now sleeps on a proper mattress without being stripped naked and may wake to sunlight seeping through his own window. He can keep personal possessions like books, letters from loved ones, legal documents, and writing materials. Conditions of loneliness lifted, Manning may now spend most of the day with other prisoners. 

The action falls just one week short of the one-year-anniversary of Manning’s arrest. On May 26, 2010, the army arrested Manning under Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) Article 92, failure to obey order or regulation, as well as Article 134, which prohibits conduct “prejudicial to good order and discipline in the armed forces and being of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

The military held Manning for two months at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait before transferring him to Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. There, the military put Manning on a “prevention of injury” watch that resulted in torturous isolation.

The inhumane conditions of Manning’s incarceration are what many would call cruel and unusual, a clear violation of the 8th Amendment. While at Quantico, Manning was denied exercise, social interaction, and sunlight. At times, he kept was completely naked – a situation startlingly reminiscent of the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"The information Bradley Manning is accused of releasing should have been in the public domain. Whoever revealed it is an American hero." said Jeff Paterson of the Bradley Manning Support Network. "Our leaders in Washington need to return to American principles of transparent and accountable government. That starts with protecting—not prosecuting—whistle-blowers and dropping all charges against Bradley.”

The military accused Manning of leaking to Wikileaks video footage of the massacre of a Reuters journalist and Iraqi civilians as well as diplomatic cables said to have helped catalyze the democratic revolts now spreading across the Middle East. While military personnel and his own father accuse Manning of endangering the nation by leaking information, Manning’s supporters and advocates of government transparency say the information belongs in the public domain. The march is an effort to draw attention to Manning’s case and ensure the security of Manning’s right to a fair trial. To date, he has not seen a public court hearing, but expects one later this summer.

 "Due process and the assumption of innocence are principles we soldiers are sworn to defend, but PFC Bradley Manning has already been declared guilty by our Commander in Chief and subjected to unlawful pretrial punishment," said William Stewart-Starks, Plains Regional Coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War, and one of the Kansas organizers of Saturday's events.

 The Bradley Manning Support Network, organizers of the action, are battling for Manning’s freedom  – a struggle they hope to win.  

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at June 2, 2011, 2:20am