By ANN MONTAGUE
On June 7 the San Francisco Pride Board issued a statement that it was refusing to back down from its decision to overrule the vote to select Bradley Manning as grand marshall for this year’s LGBT Pride Celebration. This was despite an angry May 31 community meeting at which many people had urged the board to reconsider.
On April 26, former grand marshals of San Francisco Pride, meeting in the organization’s “Electoral College,” announced that Pfc. Manning had been selected as honorary grand marshal for the June 30 event. Manning is currently being prosecuted by the U.S. military for disclosing information to WikiLeaks. The 82-year-old Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the “Pentagon Papers” in the midst of the Vietnam War, planned to be the stand-in for Manning in the parade.
Immediately, Lisa Williams, the president of the San Francisco Pride Board, rescinded the decision and issued a statement proclaiming that “Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration.” She called the Electoral College selection “a mistake.”
Referring to the alleged charges against Manning, Williams said that the SF Pride leadership would not tolerate “even the hint of support for actions which placed in harm’s way the lives of our men and women in uniform.” In making the statement, Williams chose to disregard the fact that investigations have shown that no members of the military were harmed by Manning’s actions.
A protest rally was called for the following evening at the office of the SF Pride Board. One of the organizers, Michael Petrelis, reported on the event: “A big thank you to the 200-plus individuals who participated in our 90-minute rally early this evening at the SF Pride office, on behalf of accused gay whistle-blower Bradley Manning. Not a single elected official, homosexual or straight, attended, and a rally without a politician to suck up activist energy is a great rally!
“The man who leaked the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, spoke to rousing cheers and announced he would attend his first Pride March in June when he marches with the Bradley Manning contingent. Our call-and-response went like this: ‘They say court martial!’ ‘We say Grand Marshal!’ There was a strong lesbian and women’s presence.”
Joey Cain, who had nominated Manning, explained, “He is an LGBT person who put his life on the line not only as a soldier but as a whistle blower, who exposed the lies of the U.S. military. He represents an aspect of the best of who we are as LGBT people.”
There have been rumblings in every city about Pride becoming a corporatized, assimilationist event. Even organizations like Gay Shame have been formed specifically to protest what they saw as Pride’s abandoning its original purpose. Many people are amazed that an event that memorializes rebellion, liberation, and celebration of community has become a tool of corporations. But this action of the San Francisco Pride Board seems like a turning point.
Cain was outraged: “This is the first time that I know of that Pride has put its foot down and said to members of its own organization and community: ‘You are not welcome. Your choice is not valid.’ Even when they arrested members of Gay Shame [for rushing Gavin Newsom’s car at Pride 2003], the Pride Board went to the police and said, ‘Hey, you need to let these people go.’ That’s what made Pride what it is today, the notion of radical inclusivity.”
Even Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro because Brazil recognizes his relationship for immigration purposes and the U.S. does not, decided to weigh in. He wrote about the actions of the San Francisco Pride Board in relation to the major corporate sponsors they have embraced for this year’s march. He picked out AT&T and Verizon, the telecom giants that enabled the illegal warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and later were shielded from all criminal and civil liability. Corporate sponsors also include Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who are being sued for mortgage fraud.
Greenwald pointed out, “Also in good standing with the Pride Board is Clear Channel, the media outlet that broadcasts the radio programs of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck; a pension fund is suing this SF Pride sponsor for making cheap, below-market loans to its struggling parent company. The health care giant Kaiser Permanente, another proud SF Pride sponsor, is currently under investigation by California officials for alleged massive privacy violations in the form of recklessly disclosing 300,000 patient records, and was previously targeted with criminal and civil charges, which it settled, for dumping a homeless patient, still in a hospital gown, on skid row.”
Is this what Pride has become? Of course, most cities are not receiving grants from city government. Nor do they have a “Pride Board” with a CFO. But as we head for home we always feel like we have just become “their” market and wonder where we can find the spirit of Stonewall.
Sean Sala, who calls himself an “LGBT National Military Activist,” is calling for a boycott of the parade. In his statement he says, “San Francisco has spit in the face of the LGBT Military by using a traitor to our country as a poster child. Manning makes Gay military, the Armed Forces and the cause of equality look like a sham. He deserves no recognition. I am calling on all LGBT military and National LGBT news to announce a boycott for San Francisco Pride.”
The organizers of the Bradley Manning contingent are organizing to make sure it is large and loud. They are amending their estimate for the contingent from 150 to 500 but believe it will be even larger. They expect a number of veterans who support Bradley Manning to join their contingent, and Joey Cain says there are many people who had stopped coming to the parade who have said they will come and march this year.
Photo: San Francisco chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Civilian-Soldier Alliance rally to demand that Bradley Manning be reinstated as Grand Marshall in the June 30 Pride demonstration. By SF Indymedia.