It was a decision that was bound to be controversial one way or the other. The San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade board is weathering a lot of backlash over their decision to “pull” the invitation to Army Private First Class Bradley Manning to be the next grand marshal for the parade.
According to the board, the employee who went public with the invitation was not authorized to do so. It is possible he did so in order to try and force the board to chose Manning.
PFC Manning is currently in jail facing charges stemming from the theft of some 700,000 classified government documents that he gave to WikiLeaks. Manning was an Intelligence analyst. The documents that he leaked were almost entirely worthless other than to those trying to gain publicity.
Among the documents that Manning leaked were those related to the deaths of two Reuters journalists. Their deaths were widely reported and nothing new came from the documents that were leaked. Also among the documents leaked were those relating to other incidents where the press had already covered the events rather thoroughly, and the classified documents did little to shine any light on the events themselves. Among the diplomatic cables that were leaked by Manning are ones that largely just let everyone know that US diplomats agree with most other people when it comes to Silvio Berlusconi.
Manning, who is now openly gay, has largely confessed to leaking the materials and is facing twenty years in jail. Manning’s lawyers tried to use the excuse that he cracked under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, a claim that many LGBT service members and veterans reject.
Some 200 Manning supporters protested the fact that Manning would not be the grand marshal. Lisa Geduldig, Tommi Avicolli Mecca and Michael Petrelis- all among the more ardently anti-military members of the LGBT Community, insist that they want Manning to be the grand marshal.
According to Geduling, Manning is “an anti-war hero, a whistle-blower who is gay. He was lip-synching to Lady Gaga while downloading classified documents. It doesn’t get more gay than that.” Geduling might want to note that the documents that Manning leaked were released in the waning days of the Iraq War, and did little to hasten the draw down in Afghanistan. This is in part due to the fact that the wars were largely unpopular already, and the documents that Manning leaked were hardly windows into secret attrocities.
The possible decision to name Manning as grand marshal was not well received beyond his ardent supporters. Zoe Dunning and Keith Meinhold, both former parade grand marshals, were furious over the possible decision to name Manning to that position. Both noted that Manning had taken an oath when he signed up for the military and Meinhold stated “Right or wrong there are consequences for that.”
Some, such as former Navy Corpsman John Caldera, the blame lies with the sponsors of the parade. He stated that “SF Pride sponsors include Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who have foreclosed on hundreds of veteran families.”
Former SF Pride board president Joey Cain was among those who tried to defend Manning claiming that “Bradley Manning was a little gay boy like me” and that he made a “bad decision to join the military.” And while Manning was discriminated against by the military for being gay, as Cain noted, the thousands of lesbian and gay veterans and service members did not commit treason because of that prejudice.
Cain claims that “Manning is a hero” who helped the “larger humanity with his actions.” Never mind the fact that almost none of the documents he provided actually amounted to anything shocking or really earth shattering.
Sue Englander of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club stated that the LGBT movement was not of one mind on this. She noted that “For anti-war, anti-military industrial complex and non-violence groups, Bradley Manning is a hero to workers and LGBT people in the military.”