Monday, July 01, 2013

Bradley Manning and the Gaylapalooza Weekend

The U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning, who furnished Wikileaks with sensational evidence of American war crimes in the Mideast, has been tortured in military prisons for the last couple of years, and has become something of an international embarrassment for the Obama administration, which maintains that Manning is guilty of treason. A small group has marched in San Francisco's annual Gay Pride Parade in support of the openly gay Manning over the last two years, but this year his cause exploded for a variety of reasons, threatening to overshadow the welcome Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage this week.

Manning signage and supporters were ubiquitous at the Transgender March on Friday evening, which was old school, with not a corporate sponsorship in sight. The parade marched along a fun, funky route from a fiesta in Dolores Park to a street party in the middle of the Tenderloin on Taylor Street.

At the Gay Pride march on Sunday up Market Street, one of the largest contingents this year of about 2,000 participants was the Bradley Manning Support group. The large numbers were prompted partly by the recent Edward Snowden NSA spying revelations, but were mostly in reaction to the outrageous, ongoing public relations ineptitude of the current leaders of the Pride Parade Committee. Two months ago they summarily dismissed the notion that Manning should be an honorary parade Grand Marshal after he had been already been elected as such by past Grand Marshals, and then proceeded to threaten the punishment and firing of anybody who disagreed with them.

The Manning contingent, in a screw you gesture by the Pride Committee, was assigned slot #179 which meant that thousands of marchers were stashed at Beale and Howard downtown until 2:30 PM, while the parade had begun four hours earlier at 10:30 AM. It didn't matter, and actually helped to swell the crowd with slackers like David Waggoner above who slept in and arrived at 2PM thinking the parade would already be over.

I have been participating in or ignoring this event for close to 40 years, and there has always been tension between the radicals and the assimilationists. In the late 1970s, there were calls for marchers to dress and act like suburban commuters so that society would finally approve of "the Gay Lifestyle," instead of running around naked, in leather, or drag. That particular battle is over, with the corporatists seemingly winning the overall war while nobody much cares what marchers wear anymore. The huge Manning contingent on Sunday felt like a throwback to an earlier time, and was an amazing mix of old and young, gay and straight and whatever, and included many like Jan Adams who hadn't marched in this "monster" for decades. (My camera officially died yesterday, so thank you to Jan and others whose pics I snatched from Facebook.) Jan also had one of the afternoon's best quotes, "I am at that age where I'm seeing people for the first time in 15 years and damned if I can remember their names."

Publicist and comedian Lisa Geduldig above left was one of the main organizers of the contingent, along with Joey Cain (not pictured), and their presence was charmingly lighthanded. This was an anarchic group that figured out how to work together on the spot, and included a great marching band, a drill team routine, huge homemade signage, and even a trio of pretty young naked people featuring a constantly surprising mixture of boobs and penises on the same bodies. There was even an historical celebrity, Daniel Ellsberg above right of Pentagon Papers fame, who was participating in his first Gay Pride Parade because he believes that Manning is every inch a hero who has saved lives with the information he gave to Wikileaks.

My computer genius friend Kimo Crossman told me years ago that privacy has already vanished, and so it was best to lead an open life and get used to the new reality. The other part of the equation, though, is that the watchers need to be watched too. All authority, whether it be governmental, corporate and/or criminal, is resisting transparency with every fiber of their institutional being, but it may be too late for them. They just don't know it yet, though characters like Snowden, Assange, Manning and their collaborators are trying to nudge the Watchers into their new reality too.


momo said...

Thanks for sharing your perspective. I knew there were shenanigans over Bradley Manning, so I'm glad to see that folks turned out.

Lauren said...

Michael --

It was an amazing event. I felt honored to march with such an awesome contingent of politically active people.

Also: excellent that you posted a picture of myself and my girlfriend Molly with our "PEACE HERO" and other sign :) THANK YOU :) How awesome! We didn't get very many pictures of ourselves that day. Too many other things to look at and photograph.

It was a great day, even if the media totally ignored us. (If you watch parade coverage, as I did on channel 20 later that day, they cut to commercial and show NONE of us. NOTHING.)

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Lauren: Well, it's good that I have appointed myself The Alternative Media then, since Channel 20 was too stupid to cover one of the biggest stories of the day. And it was a real pleasure running into the two of you everywhere last week, on old streetcars and in the street.

Greg said...

Thanks for posting this. I actually watched the parade on TV on Comcast, and eagerly anticipated seeing all my friends in the parade. I'm not necessarily a fan of Manning but I believe people have the right to free speech to say they are for him.

Anyway, bloody Comcast censored them out as if they were never there. They of course gave plenty of praise to the many corporations sponsoring the parade, and to straight politicians who are out there bidding for the LGBTQ vote such as Harris and Newsom, both running for governor soon. UGH!

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Greg: The media blackout IS kind of weird. And don't get me started on Willie Brown disciples/enablers Harris and Newsom.

nancy namaste said...

Thanks for the clear explanation. I didn't follow the politics around this so much appreciated.I like the comment about living your life openly.

Hattie said...

I am happy that there is some excitement again on the SF scene. And your blog does a great job of covering events.