“As rain poured down last night, I thought I can’t possibly go this morning, but then I got on WLCentral this morning and Daniel Ellsberg has been arrested in his 80s outside the White House, so we can brave a little rain!”
These were the thoughts of one local activist at a Sydney rally in support of alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning on March 20. The rally was part of an international day of action called by Bradleymanning.org and Courage to Resist.
Manning is suspected of having leaked military documents about Iraq and Afghanistan, a video of a military attack that killed a dozen civilians including two Reuters staff, and 250,000 diplomatic cables. His charges include “aiding the enemy”, a crime that carries the death penalty or life in prison.
Demonstrations were held in cities all around the world, including in the US where Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower behind the release of the Pentagon Papers, now in his 80s, joined demonstrators.
Ellsberg, along with over 30 others, was arrested for refusing to leave an intersection outside the Quantico Marine Corps Brig where Manning is currently detained in maximum custody detention.
Sydneysiders were thinking of their counterparts in Washington as they gathered near the US Consulate in Martin Place, in the wind and rain to stand up against the continued mistreatment of Bradley Manning.
The small but vocal crowd chanted “Free Bradley Manning” and heard from rally organiser Michele Ambrose and Greens NSW Member of Parliament David Shoebridge. There was then an open microphone, giving those gathered the opportunity to speak out.
Socialist Alliance activist Paul Benedek said: “Do we think that the truth is a crime?
“The Australian government has a lot to be ashamed of. What have we heard in support of Bradley Manning and democracy? We’ve only heard condemnation. When history judges, history will see Manning as a hero.”
On March 11, spokesperson for the US State Department PJ Crowley resigned after speaking out against Manning’s conditions. Crowley described Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid”. Barack Obama insisted that Manning’s conditions are “appropriate”.
David House, a friend on Manning’s visiting list, told Associated Press: “It’s stuff like this that gives Bradley hope. When I go in there, look him in the eyes and say, ‘Bradley, there are people on the outside that support you,’ his eyes light up.”