Metro Weekly

SF Pride retracts unauthorized announcement of Bradley Manning as parade marshal

UPDATE: On May 7, 2013.

San Francisco Pride updated its Facebook page with regards to Bradley Manning being selected as Grand Pride Marshal. In part, the group said:

The SF Pride Board recognizes and regrets the recent error in the announcement of Mr. Bradley Manning as the Electoral College’s Community Grand Marshal. The Electoral College was not the appropriate forum for his nomination…. Under that longstanding policy, the community grand marshal upon whom the Electoral College votes is defined as “a local hero (individual) not being a celebrity.”

Because Mr. Manning is not local, by definition under the Grand Marshal policy, he may not be nominated or elected by the Electoral College as its community grand marshal. The SF Pride Board determined that because the nomination and election had been conducted in the incorrect forum, the election could not be upheld as valid. Mr. Manning might rightfully qualify as a nominee for Celebrity Grand Marshal or another community grand marshal spot, but not as the Electoral College’s nominee, as a matter of longstanding, written policy….

Those that nominated Mr. Manning surely knew that he is not a local, Bay Area community member, and that he should not have been voted on by the Electoral College….

Taking sides in the controversy concerning Mr. Manning’s conduct is not appropriate for the organization and falls outside its core mission. We apologize to Mr. Manning, knowing that he did not ask to be at the center of a community firestorm, and for any harsh words that may have been said about him. In the end, SF Pride recognizes that becoming embroiled in the controversy concerning the merit of Mr. Manning’s conduct was an honest mistake. However, because the Grand Marshal/Pink Brick policy precludes Mr. Manning from being nominated for, or elected as a community grand marshal by the Electoral College, SF Pride stands by his disqualification on those unequivocal policy grounds.

ORIGINAL POST: April 27, 2013.

San Francisco Pride came under fire this week when numerous reports claimed that Bradley Manning had been chosen as a grand marshal for this year’s SF Pride Parade, set for June 30. 

Bradley Manning

Within hours, however, the president of San Francisco Pride, Lisa L. Williams, released a statement – while acknowledging there was some support within the organization for Manning to serve as a grand marshal, and that a connection had been established between a SF Pride board member and Manning –  emphasizing that the board as a whole had not voted to support Manning’s nomination, and that the invitation was invalid.

Williams’s statement was posted on the organization’s Facebook page:

26 April 2013: Bradley Manning will not be a grand marshal in this year’s San Francisco Pride celebration. His nomination was a mistake and should never have been allowed to happen. A staff person at SF Pride, acting under his own initiative, prematurely contacted Bradley Manning based on internal conversations within the SF Pride organization. That was an error and that person has been disciplined. He does not now, nor did he at that time, speak for SF Pride.

Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country. There are many, gay and straight, military and non-military, who believe Bradley Manning to be innocent. There are many who feel differently. Under the US Constitution, they have a first amendment right to show up, participate and voice their opinions at Pride this year.

Lisa L. WilliamsSpecifically, what these events have revealed is a system whereby a less-than-handful of people may decide who represents the LGBT community’s highest aspirations as grand marshals for SF Pride. This is a systemic failure that now has become apparent and will be rectified. In point of fact, less than 15 people actually cast votes for Bradley Manning. These 15 people are part of what is called the SF Pride Electoral College, comprised of former SF Pride Grand Marshals. However, as an organization with a responsibility to serve the broader community, SF Pride repudiates this vote. The Board of Directors for SF Pride never voted to support this nomination. Bradley Manning will have his day in court, but will not serve as an official participant in the SF Pride Parade.

— Lisa L. Williams, SF Pride Board President

Manning has been identified as a gay man who spent some time in Washington, D.C.’s gay community. He is currently being prosecuted for the 2010 leak of classified government documents to the website Wikileaks. Manning was exposed via an online chat with a third party, as was documented by Wired Magazine. For his actions, he has been labeled an American hero by some and a traitor by others. The prosecution and criminal nature of the disclosure remains a hotly debated topic. 

Before Williams’s issued her statement clarifiying that Manning would not be recognized as a marshal, Rainey Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network said with regard to the choice of Manning:

The LGBT community is unique in that being a member requires a willingness to disclose the truth about ourselves to the benefit of those around us and society as a whole. As a longstanding Manning supporter, I’m thrilled to see our community publicly embrace his courage in disclosing classified truths about the war in Iraq and other facts which empower the American public to promote smarter future policy.

Reaction to this latest news has been mixed on social media. Some claimed that Pride had “backtracked” or gotten “cold feet.” Wikileaks itself tweeted this:

After pressure San Francisco Gay Pride rescinds Bradley Manning honour.

[Editor’s note: The orignial headline on this post, “False reports claim Bradley Manning chosen as SF Pride Parade Marshal,” has been changed to more accurately reflect its content.]

JD Uy has been a Metro Weekly webmaster, distribution manager, blogger and videographer since 2002.