Update 7/18/12: Fort Manning Los Angeles
By Mike McKee, Bradley Manning Support Network. July 18, 2012
Endorsed by more than 25 organizations, this three-day encampment of the Los Angeles federal court building in support of Bradley Manning represented a true cross-section of veterans and anti-war groups and several southern California “chapters” of the Occupy movement.
Things kicked off on the early evening of Friday, July 13, when, after some brief announcements, the crowd gathered at Pershing Square began its march. More than 135 people took to the streets, carrying signs and chanting in support of Bradley Manning. Despite an almost complete lack of traffic—aside from police “escort” vehicles—police made repeated attempts and appeals to restrict the march to the sidewalk. About six blocks and three “final warnings” later, we and our escorts arrived at Los Angeles’ appropriately monolithic City Hall.
Here, comedian and activist Lee Camp treated the crowd to a political stand-up routine (genuinely funnier than I’d been expecting), while some latecomers trickled in and passing motorists sounded their horns in support. Sufficiently knee-slapped, the protest then proceeded on to the federal court building, where a dozen or so Homeland Security agents in militarized suits complemented the wrap-around fencing blocking the entire property and preventing encampment on actual federal property. Not to be dissuaded, protesters merely pitched their tents on the adjacent sidewalk, in full view of a busy highway on-ramp.
For three nights straight, protesters returned to the encampment, making a sustained visible presence. During the days, Fort Manning protesters and their supporters met at the nearby Fletcher Bowran Square for a variety of teach-ins, speakers, silk-screening, outreach and discussion. While some addressed the realities of war for ground troops (evidently a lethal cocktail of violence, pornography, propaganda, first-person-shooter video games and sleep-deprivation), others focused on the economic dimensions of war, media distortion, and—of course—the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower himself, Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Daytime speakers included Cenk Uygar (Young Turks, Current TV), Jodie Evans (Code Pink), filmmaker Bill Still, whistle-blower Julia Davis, as well as members of Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out. On Saturday night, Fort Manning hosted a live concert on the steps of city hall, featuring Glue Gun, Lochness, Underground Alliance and seasoned LA punk band The Stains.
In the hours of downtime, people from Fort Manning took to Los Angeles’ touristy Bunker Hill and La Puebla areas to distribute stickers and literature about Manning’s case. Meanwhile, others labored round the clock in daylight hours to keep the many banners visible from the busy Highway 101 overpass. Later in the evenings, once the tents were erected, Fort Manning protesters held candlelight vigils.
While each day of the encampment provided countless opportunities for discussion and outreach, it’s also worth celebrating the quantifiable fruits of all those involved.
So, let’s run the numbers!
Attendance at inaugural march: ~140
Average number of tents per night: 17
Number of letters written to Bradley: 14
Average number of candles at vigils: 58
Number of banners over highway: 3
Number of forced evictions and arrests: Zero.