Manning protest interrupts Obama fundraiser

They didn’t get a lot of publicity, but a small group of women at an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco staged a brief protest in support of Bradley Manning Thursday—through song.

Manning is the Army private being held in military detention pending trial on charges that he leaked thousands of secret documents, many relating to diplomatic concerns, to the WikiLeaks website. Many people have complained that the military detention—which has included solitary confinement and no access to clothing while he sleeps—has been unnecessarily harsh.

On Thursday morning, April 21, at a 200-person fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco, a woman stood up at a table midway through the president’s remarks, interrupted him, and called out, “Mr. President, we’re going to do a song. Can we stand?”

According to an official transcript of the event, the president responded, “Well, let me—” and then the group began to sing.

“That’s very nice,” said the president, at some point. “Nancy, did you plan this?” he added, apparently to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. After the group finished, the president continued with his remarks.

The Washington Post reported that the lyrics of the group of 10 singing protesters included “Dear Mr. President, we honor you today, sir; Each of us brought you $5,000…We’ll vote for you in 2012…Look at the Republicans, what else can we do? Even though we don’t know if we’ll retain our liberties…But at another location in this country, Alone in a 6X12 cell, sits Bradley, 23 hours a day is night. The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain’t right.”

The Post said the group also distributed signs that said, “Free Bradley Manning.” Only one of the women was escorted out of the event.

Some media reports said the song came across as heckling.

At least some attendees to the fundraiser reportedly paid $35,800 each for their seats.

Coincidentally, Defense officials announced they moved Manning from a facility in Quantico, Virginia, to one in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on Wednesday, April 20. According to Amnesty International, Manning was detained in a maximum security facility at Quantico. At Leavenworth, the group said, he will be in a medium security.

Amnesty International said it would continue to monitor the conditions under which Manning is being held.

Last month, a top State Department official resigned after calling the military’s treatment of Manning “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” P.J. Crowley, assistant secretary of State, made the remarks at an informal seminar at a university in Boston.

Manning, who has identified himself as gay, was assigned to military intelligence analysis, when he was charged last July with having turned over more than 250,000 internal State Department cables to WikiLeaks, an Internet site that has made them public. WikiLeaks claims that fewer than 16,000 of those documents were classified secret, but numerous officials in the Obama administration have said the leaks have had significant negative consequences for American diplomacy and security.

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