Speaking before the San Francisco Pride Board Tuesday evening, noted whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told the group that Bradley Manning should be "lauded as the hero that he is," throwing in their face the Board's earlier assertion that to support Manning would be a "mistake" and an "insult," following the gay rights group's u-turn on a decision to name Manning an honorary Grand Marshal at the city's June Pride Parade.
Outside in the building's lobby, elevator doors slammed in the faces of over 100 other Manning supporters, blocking those who had come to the public meeting to speak on behalf of the imprisoned Army whistleblower.
The meeting was reportedly called to accept "public comment" on the Bradley manning controversy. Ellsberg, who had famously leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times during the Vietnam War, was among the few who did make it in.
According to local blogger and activist Michael Petrelis, who had also managed to sneak into the meeting with a plea to "use the bathroom," Ellsberg asked the board to reinstate Manning as a Grand Marshal "because it's the right thing to do, to honor their own electoral process and that Manning should be lauded as the hero that he is."
Ellsberg was originally slated to Grand Marshal the parade in Manning's absence, as his imprisonment would have prevented him from actually attending.
"A big mistake was made by the Board of Directors of SF Pride," Ellsberg said at an earlier rally condemning Pride's decision. "I don't hint at support for Bradley Manning. I couldn't be louder. I will be marching in that parade, for the first time for me, with a banner honoring Bradley Manning."
Following news that "only 15 people at a time were being allowed into the board meeting," the Manning supporters took to the streets chanting "You say court martial, we say grand marshal!"
"I know it's 40 years ago and I'm old, but I was at the first Gay Freedom march in Philadelphia in 1972—and we were officially protesting the war in Vietnam," queer activist Tommi Avicolli Mecca told the San Francisco Bay Guardian. "How did we come to this—standing outside the corporate offices of Pride and shouting for them to let a military protestor, from the military itself, into their parade—into our parade?"
Despite Pride's initial and "cowardly" statement that they had rescinded the honor because Manning’s actions put military service people in harm’s way, ahead of the meeting the organization released another "official statement," which claimed that Manning's election as Grand Marshal was revoked because he was "not local."
San Francisco attorney David Waggoner filed a complaint Tuesday morning with the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, alleging that Pride's Board of Directors had discriminated against Manning and had suppressed the free speech of those members who had supported Manning.
"[T]he Pride Board apparently forgot that Pride itself was founded on the celebration of dissent," the complaint concluded.
"Those members of the pride board who voted for Bradley Manning did so out of a moral conviction that he should be recognized," added Waggoner.