The following is a press release from the Bradley Manning Support Network on the rally just held at Ft. Leavenworth in Kansas.
LEAVENWORTH, KS — Approximately 250 supporters of PFC Bradley Manning—including many United States military veterans—converged today (Saturday, June 4, 2011) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to rally for the soldier who stands accused of leaking classified government information to WikiLeaks and ultimately to the public.
Supporters held large colorful signs that said, "Free Bradley Manning, Hero, Whistle-Blower." They gathered at Bob Dougherty Memorial Park where they staged a rally with speakers and music for one hour. Then they marched several blocks to the main entrance of Fort Leavenworth, where PFC Manning is being held. Rally speakers called on the Obama Administration to protect whistle-blowers and to drop all charges against the Army private.
This was the first large public rally to support PFC Bradley Manning since he was transferred to Fort Leavenworth. He was transferred on April 20, 2011, after having suffered under extreme and unusual confinement conditions at US Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia. During the nine months at Quantico, Manning was denied meaningful exercise, social interaction, and sunlight, and was at times kept completely naked.
The Bradley Manning Support Network worked with other local and national groups to organize the rally. Members from two veterans' organizations—Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War—comprised a large part of the turnout, including a contingent that drove from Fort Hood, Texas.
"PFC Bradley Manning is a fellow soldier," said Brian Wolfe, a Lawrence Kansas-based Army Veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. "If a fellow soldier is punished for taking his oath to defend the constitution seriously, what does that mean for our military and for our democracy?"
The information that PFC Manning is accused of revealing includes the videotaped massacre of Reuters journalists and Iraqi civilians, as well as diplomatic cables that experts believe helped to catalyze democratic revolts across the Middle East this spring.
Referencing the "Arab Spring", a 16-foot high banner read, "Freedom for Bradley Manning, American Hero. Let Freedom Ring from Leavenworth to Tahrir, Egypt."
"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, who will spoke at the rally on behalf 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 Manning."
PFC Bradley Manning, 23-years-old, was detained in Iraq one year ago on May 26, 2010. He still awaits his first public court hearing, now expected to begin later this summer. Today's rally is part of an escalating campaign to show broad public support for PFC Bradley Manning. Over 4,300 individuals have contributed $333,000 towards PFC Manning’s legal fees and related public education efforts. The Bradley Manning Support Network is dedicated to securing due process and a public trial for PFC Manning — and to eventually winning his freedom.