Perth: Police, council try to stop Bradley Manning support action

Issue 
Action in support of Bradley Manning, December 17, Perth. Photo by Leela Cheary.

On December 17, activists gathered in Perth’s city centre for a speakout as part of an international day of action for accused Wikileaks' whistleblower Bradley Manning. The action defied attempts by the Perth City Council to close down stalls and take down banners for the action.

In May 2010, 24 year old Bradley Manning was arrested over suspicion of leaking secret US military and government documents to Wikileaks.

These leaks included evidence of the torture and killing of countless individuals, the illegal bombing of Yemen and extent of the drone attacks on Pakistan.

Since his arrest, Manning has faced imprisonment in conditions described as "degrading" by some of the US’s top law professors. They said it violates the Eighth Amendment (outlawing cruel and unusual punishment) and the Fifth Amendment (prohibiting punishment without trial).

This included being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day for 10 months, exercising only by walking around in a room in circles and being made to stand naked and to attention every morning after he was charged on March 2.

The international day of action was called in response to the beginning of Manning’s Article 32 hearing, which will rule on whether there is enough evidence for a general court martial. Manning’s defence team tried to call 32 witnesses to the stand but all bar two were refused.

They have called this measure unfair and said the unusual action of letting the media report on the case may also jeopardise their chances.

Manning has been charged with multiple criminal charges including "aiding the enemy" and sharing state secrets which could leave him facing life imprisonment after the US government said they would not seek the death penalty.

About 25 protesters stood up to intimidation from Perth City Council rangers from the beginning of the action. Rangers wanted the banners and tables removed from the public space.

Activists took some steps to allay concerns of the rangers. However, the rangers called police in order to enforce their will. Police asked the protesters to remove the tables and banner and said that the action could continue unhindered if that happened.

However, before police had finished explaining this, council rangers had already begun seizing tables, a megaphone and other materials.

Rangers seized letters that participants and passers by had written to the prime minister and other politicians calling for justice for Bradley Manning.

By this time, a crowd of up to 100 people had gathered to watch the events. Two protesters were given move on notices for nothing more than talking to police.

Despite interruptions from the police, the activists continued raising the issue of support for Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks as well as raising the issues of free speech locally. Protesters chanted: "Democracy is under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back."

Activists are now discussing the next steps in the campaign.

[For more information on Bradley Manning and the campaign in his support, visit www.bradleymanning.org.

Live stream video from Karum Cowper/Occupy Perth.

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