Bradley Manning: SF Pride Still Doesn't Get Why People Are Upset


San Francisco Pride would really like you to forget the whole Bradley Manning issue. After Manning was nominated to be honored by former Grand Marshals of the city's yearly Pride Parade, the announcement was made public, some veterans and LGBT groups protested, SF Pride retracted the honor, faced community protests, changed its tactics, and was protested again — and yet the organization still hasn't absorbed why the community is upset and why it matters.

Pride has announced via email that it's postponing the May 14 meeting on Manning's invitation until a larger, suitable location is secured, with the rationale that “We want to allow people to have a chance to voice their opinions about the recent controversy, but also have a large event coming up, and do not want to let one issue, as important as it is to some, overshadow the concerns and interests of the hundreds of thousands who attend SF Pride.”

The email went on to say, “SF Pride's decision concerning the election process of Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal being consistent with SF Pride's long standing Grand Marshal election policy is firm. Thus, the discussion of that matter is closed for this year.”

With this attitude that the matter is closed, any such meeting on Manning serves no purpose. The activists who gathered to protest both on April 29 and May 7 were not hoping to just get an idea out there, they sought concrete actions from SF Pride in order to best reflect the will of participants.

SF Pride justified this decision saying, “A meeting in a larger venue after the 2013 Celebration and Parade will allow people from all sides of that issue and others to fully air and hear one another's viewpoints, without jeopardizing the production of this year's event and the safety and security of the attendees. We ask everyone in the community to come together in Pride this June, recognizing that we can embrace difference without violence and hate.”

This is a classic strawman argument. There is no safety or security risk in honoring or not honoring Bradley Manning. And to deny the community a chance to be heard prior to the event is not respecting viewpoints of a diverse community; it is silencing the chance for those viewpoints to be reflected in action. This lack of representation in action has been a complaint of many protesters, and in its newest tactic to avoid controversy, SF Pride is showing just the attitude the protesters have become tired of.

In my observation of the protesters, I saw no hate for Pride as an organization or movement. Rather, their protest sought to better represent the community and was based out of a desire for greater inclusivity within the community. Many had frustrations due to SF Pride not listening, however this press release shows that such a frustration is well grounded. SF Pride wants to first have its event, and then have a conversation when it can have no effect on the outcome.