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Bradley Manning's Supporters Go on Trial


Baltimore Nonviolence Center

WHO: On March 20, 2011, thirty three activists, including Daniel Ellsberg who released the Pentagon Papers, were arrested outside the entrance to the Quantico Marine Base in Triangle, Virginia.  The arrests took place on Route 1 after a rally condemning the torture of Pfc. Bradley Manning, an alleged whistleblower, then imprisoned in the Quantico brig.  He was kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day at that time for a period of eight months and suffered other indignities.  There was no conceivable justification for such degrading treatment, which brought back memories of the abuses committed in Abu-Ghraib.

The arrests took place after the military reneged on a promise to allow veterans and a mother of a member of the military to place flowers at the Iwo Jima Memorial near the entrance to Quantico.  For whatever reason, the veterans were not permitted near the statue which is open to the public, and they had to throw the flowers, which was quite undignified.  These veterans then sat down on Route 1, and soon hundreds of rally attendees, some of whom would also be arrested, joined the vets in the road, which was closed by the police.  Most of the arrestees were charged with unlawful assembly and malicious obstruction of traffic.

WHAT:  After the arrests, John Zwerling, a prominent Alexandria, Virginia attorney agreed to take on the cases pro bono.  Since the arrests, some defendants pled guilty and paid fines, one refused and spent a day in jail, and a majority had their charges dismissed.  Four defendants, though, Jean Athey, Helen Gerhardt, Max Obuszewski and Col. Ann Wright, decided to go to trial.  Gerhardt and Obuszewski, facing a charge of malicious obstruction of traffic, will represent themselves.  And Zwerling and his legal team will represent Athey, facing the traffic charge, and Col. Wright, who still faces two charges, including unlawful assembly.

WHEN:  Monday, November 7, 2011 at 10 AM

WHERE: Prince William Circuit Court, 31st Judicial Circuit of Virginia, 9248 Lee Ave., Manassas, VA 20110

WHY:  These four defendants felt an urgency to bring the issue of the torture of Pfc. Bradley Manning into a Virginia courtroom.  They went to Quantico because they felt they had a Nuremberg Obligation to speak out against the torture of Manning and will make this argument during trial.  They will also argue their First Amendment rights and the fact that the evidence will show they are innocent of all charges.   

Jean Athey, coordinator of Peace Action Montgomery (MD), said "I was at Quantico to express my profound admiration and respect for a young soldier who is accused of exposing the truth. If the government’s allegations are true, he is being persecuted because he has a conscience, because he could not stand by and do nothing when he saw terrible injustice. What was being done to Bradley Manning at Quantico was an outrage and contrary to the principles on which this country was founded.

Veteran Helen Gerhardt, from Pittsburgh, was deployed for over a year in Iraq with a National Guard Transportation unit that delivered water to Abu Ghraib. Because of her experiences in Iraq, she was determined to join protesters in an act of civil resistance at Quantico Marine Base when she became aware of the cruel and unusual punishment, similar to what was practiced at Abu Ghraib, being inflicted on her fellow soldier Pfc. Bradley Manning. It became apparent that Manning was being tortured and subjected to many months of solitary confinement and humiliation though the practice of forced nudity during morning inspections. She felt it was her imperative duty to follow through on her oath to support and defend the Constitution by peaceably assembling to demand that our government and military obey the law and honor all our human and civil rights.

On March 16, 2011, Max Obuszewski, a long-time peace and justice activist from Baltimore, emailed a letter to Commandant Colonel Daniel J. Choike seeking a meeting to discuss the inhumane treatment of Manning.  He received no response, so he brought the letter to Quantico on March 20, but again his request for a meeting was ignored.  Instead he was arrested.  A copy of the letter is available upon request.

Retired US Army Reserve Colonel Ann Wright said, "I felt the pre-trial conditions of solitary confinement and nudity that PFC Bradley Manning was subjected to in the Quantico brig for many months were outrageous and that public action by veterans and citizens to show their concern for the rights of this soldier was necessary."

 Bradley Manning was moved to the military prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, and now is in general population.  His situation has greatly improved, probably because of the protests and pressure generated around the world condemning the inhumane treatment.

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