On Friday, it was announced that Bradley Manning, the jailed “Wikileaks” suspect, would be a grand marshal at the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade (in absentia, we guess).
Manning is currently being tried for removing some 700,000 classified documents from a Baghdad Army base and passing them to the producers of the site Wikileaks, who posted them online. He was charged with a number of offenses, including communicating national defense information to an unauthorized source and aiding the enemy.
The choice of Manning sparked accolades and outrage across the Web, with some calling the 25-year-old a hero and others branding him as a traitor. “SHAME ON San Francisco Pride!” openly gay Navy veteran Sean Sara posted on Facebook: “As an LGBT Military activist, [I feel] you have officially SHAMED the LGBT community!” Sara also said he would lead a national boycott of the event.
Others have questioned why Manning—whose struggle with his sexuality and possible gender-identity disorder was only uncovered during the criminal investigation—was being honored at an event celebrating LGBT activism.
By Friday evening, San Francisco Pride had reversed itself—withdrawing Manning as a grand marshal. In a statement on Facebook, SF Pride Board President wrote:
Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration. His nomination was a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen.
A staff person at SF Pride, acting under his own initiative, prematurely contacted Bradley Manning based on internal conversations within the SF Pride organization. That was an error and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride.
Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country. There are many, gay and straight, military and non-military, who believe Bradley Manning to be innocent. There are many who feel differently. Under the US Constitution, they have a first amendment right to show up, participate and voice their opinions at Pride this year.
Williams also pulled back the curtain on the complicated and confusing way in which nominees are selected:
Specifically, what these events have revealed is a system whereby a less-than-handful of people may decide who represents the LGBT community’s highest aspirations as grand marshals for SF Pride. This is a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified.
In point of fact, less than 15 people actually cast votes for Bradley Manning. These 15 people are part of what is called the SF Pride Electoral College, comprised of former SF Pride Grand Marshals. However, as an organization with a responsibility to serve the broader community, SF Pride repudiates this vote. The Board of Directors for SF Pride never voted to support this nomination.
Grand marshals who have been approved for the 2013 parade on Sunday, June 30, include DJ Chili D, activist-politician Bevan Dufty, Attorney General Kamala Harris , Black Coalition on AIDS director Perry Lang Perry Lang and the San Francisco Bay Times’ Betty Sullivan.