By John Grant
Ft. Meade -- Saturday, December 17th was Bradley Manning’s 24th birthday, and at least 300 supporters gathered outside Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military was in its second day of a preliminary hearing process that’s expected to take about a week. Manning worked in military intelligence and is alleged to have released military secrets to WikiLeaks, which released the material publicly.
After collecting at the main gate, Manning supporters set off for a two-mile march to a gate nearer the military hearing site. The group was quite spirited and, despite Anne Arundel County Police efforts to keep marchers on the sidewalk, insisted on taking up a lane of the street. The police wisely did not attempt to stop them and there were no problems.
A friend and I had driven down from Philadelphia and arrived early for the gathering. At the local Dunkin Donut we found ourselves in line behind two Anne Arundel County officers there to pick up their daily allotment of donuts. The men were friendly and we chatted about being there for the Manning demonstration. They proudly told us the department had provided two porta-potties for the convenience of demonstrators. They told us to be safe and stay on the sidewalk.
A witness to Friday's opening day of the hearing said, despite nasty and shameful treatment by the military early in his captivity, Manning looked healthy and chatted easily with his attorneys. He notably made no eye-contact and in no way acknowledged the many sympathizers in the courtroom -- a prudent decision, no doubt, made by his attorneys, given the Kafkaesque reality of being a prisoner of the US military circa 2011.
Manning's attorneys made a number of motions, all or most of which were rejected; I was told only two of 38 requested witnesses for Manning were allowed by the military judges. When the Friday hearing was over and people were filing out, Veterans For Peace Board Member Nate Goldshlag hollered "Bradley Manning is a hero!" This was too much for military authorities, and Goldshlag was told never to return to the hearings. (Anyone can attend the hearings; those interested should be at the Fort Meade gate by 7AM and ask where to go from there. No electronics allowed, and of course silence is the rule.)
Following the spirited march, a number of veteran and activist speakers addressed the crowd, speaking of Manning’s individual courage and the absurdities of the secrecy-obsessed National Security State system in whose clutches he resides. After the final speaker singer-songwriter Dave Rovics led the group in singing Happy Birthday to Manning...
For the rest of this article by JOHN GRANT, plus his incredible photographs of the support demonstration, in ThisCantBeHappening!, the new Project Censored Award-winning independent online alternative newspaper, please go to: www.thiscantbehappening.net/