Bradley Manning, Pride Parade Grand Marshal—Not!


Manning-demoThe new issue of the GLR, which should reach subscribers soon, includes a “Guest Opinion” piece by James Patterson concerning the ongoing debate in San Francisco about the status of Bradley Manning as a “grand marshal” in this year’s Pride parade. The parade’s organizing committee had initially made this selection in absentia—Manning is currently in a federal prison for having leaked a vast trove of government documents to Wikileaks—but then rescinded the appointment after some gay vets and others objected to honoring a soldier who’s court martial has just begun on charges up to treason. The predictable uproar over the withdrawal has not died down in the intervening two weeks since we went to press, so it is what they call on CNN a “developing story,” and thus an update seems in order.

The author of the op-ed piece in the GLR, James Patterson, a reporter with the Bay Area Reporter, has been following the story in BAR, which includes open meetings of the planning committee that devolved into verbal brawls, accusations of murder, and so on. Here’s a recent report from James. Meanwhile, the hacker organization Anonymous has leaped into the fray and decided to go after the head of the Committee, Lisa Williams, who’s accused of more-or-less single-handedly engineering the fiasco by forcing the decision to rescind.

Only in San Francisco! one is tempted to say—or at least this life-long East Coaster is tempted to say. Since when have prison inmates been chosen to serve as grand marshals of parades? Okay, it was just a symbolic gesture—which of course is the point. The move was intended to send a message, which could only work if the planning committee was willing to stand by its decision 100 percent, come what may. Once the chair of the committee cracked under criticism, all hell was bound to break loose. I mean, this is a city where fur can fly over the exact number of days that the gay flag in Harvey Milk Plaza should fly at half-mast after a gay celebrity’s demise.

Anyway, as it now stands the decision to withdraw Manning as grand marshal is still in force, but more meetings of the organizing committee are planned pursuant to the June 29 event. But already whole coalitions of marchers are organizing to support Bradley Manning in the parade, which can only mean that he’ll be represented much more prominently than he would have been before the annulment of his marshalhood. Such is the politics of pure symbolism, San Francisco style.