Yesterday I stood with 200 activists at the gates of Quantico Marine Base to protest the imprisonment and torture of a young patriot, Bradley Manning, who has not been convicted of any crime. It was the right way to spend the day set aside to remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Manning, 23, is alleged to have provided Wikileaks with documents that expose war crimes and other unethical behaviors being committed by the United States. He reportedly first went to his commanding officer when he saw that Iraqis were being imprisoned and tortured at the behest of the US military for simply publishing a document which questioned where the money went in Iraq. He was told to get back to work. Apparently when he saw more evidence of war crimes, he felt that the American public must know what is being done in its name. Manning is said to have joined the military because he believed in his country.
Many of us held photos of Manning and signs that said, "I am Bradley Manning." In essence, each of us who love our country and who speak out for the betterment of the United States are brothers and sisters of young Manning. And sadly, each of us who does speak out risks consequences of imprisonment like Manning.
We started the day at the FBI headquarters in Washington to protest the treatment of peace and justice activists who have had their homes raided, their private property stolen and who are facing an investigation by a Grand Jury. In some cases, these social justice groups had been infiltrated by undercover FBI agents for as long as 2 ½ years. This is what our tax dollars fund: domestic spying on peaceful social justice activists.
It takes courage to speak out against the great corporate interests in this nation be they the military-industrial complex, the financial institutions or the healthcare-industrial complex. Not everyone has the courage to do so. I am driven by the words of Dr. King when he said "to be silent is to be complicit."
I cannot be silent when tens of millions of people in the US have no health insurance. I cannot be complicit when tens of thousands are suffering, when tens of thousands die of preventable causes, when families go bankrupt and lose their homes because of medical illness. I cannot be silent when health professionals are being driven out of practice by the insatiable greed of corporate health care.
I take comfort in the fact that I am not alone and that there is strength in numbers. Yesterday we were told that we could only protest across the street from the base at Quantico. We chose not to obey that order and instead marched across the street and right through the gates chanting "Free Bradley Manning!" There were a few marines and police officers stationed at the street and gate to stop us. They held up their hands and told us to stop but we did not hesitate and marched on through.
Likewise, there is strength in numbers if the peace and social movements join together to speak out against the concentrated corporate power that controls our government and our media. Together we can create the changes we so desperately need. Together we can raise our voices so high that we cannot be ignored.
Let us remember that Dr. King was more than a leader of the civil rights movement. He also advocated for those living in poverty and spoke out against the Vietnam War. When he began to speak out against the war, he was questioned why he did that instead of focusing on civil rights. King responded in his speech at the Riverside Church in New York City:
"And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live."
Dr. King went on to link all of the movements for peace and justice at home and abroad and to call for a radical revolution of values. He said that we must move from a "thing-oriented society" to a "person-oriented society."
I urge you, in the days following this great day of remembrance, to hear the words of Dr. King and to do what you can to create a just society and world. Speak out against injustice wherever you see it. Use your money wisely to support local goods and services rather than multinational corporations who rob us of our health and wealth. Join in protest when you are able.
To reach the revolution of values of which Dr. King speaks we must build a culture of non-violent resistance to the status quo. We must not be silent. We must not be complicit. We must join the movements for peace, health care, jobs, education, housing and human rights. We can succeed together.