Update 9/7/12: Report from Washington, DC action
Report from Washington, DC activists: Letter hand delivered to President Obama calling for pardon of Bradley Manning
By Kevin Zeese, September 7, 2012.
On September 6th, 2012 supporters of Bradley Manning protested outside of the national headquarters of the Democratic National Committee which is working with the campaign to re-elect President Obama.
Approximately 20 supporters of Manning attended the event on a rainy morning, on the day President Obama will accept the nomination for his re-election. The purpose of the protest, which occurred along with 32 other protests at Obama campaign offices throughout the country, was to tell President Obama to free Bradley Manning. In Washington, DC activists sought to deliver a letter to the president through the Democratic Party that highlighted Obama’s mistaken claim that Manning is guilty, the lengthy solitary confinement-torture that Manning suffered and urge President Obama to pardon Manning.
When we arrived we were chanting “President Obama Free Bradley Manning.” Kevin Zeese an attorney who is a member of the steering committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network explained why the charges against Manning should be dismissed and why we were focused on President Obama. He noted that the decision to hold Manning in solitary confinement was made by a three-star general at the Pentagon and it would be surprising if he acted without the approval of the president, Joint Chiefs of Staff or Secretary of Defense, in other words the decision to illegally torture a U.S. soldier being held in pre-trial detention was made at the highest levels of government.
There was an immediate conflict with the police. They did not want us standing in front of the DNC headquarters, claiming it was private property. We argued that this was the office of a political party and we merely wanted to deliver a letter to President Obama.One officer tried to intimidate Malachy Kilbride into leaving the DNC entrance but Malachy peacefully stood his ground as others told the officer not to touch him and back-away.
DNC security called the Capitol Hill Police who joined in asking us to move. In all seven police vehicles came to the DNC headquarters. Later the Metro DC Police were called. We explained that we were peaceably assembling in exercise of our First Amendment rights and merely wanted to deliver a letter to the president through the DNC. We said we understood this was private property, but it was the property of a political party that represented the people of the United States and we had a right to communicate with them and deliver a letter to the president. We told them we had no intention on leaving until the letter was delivered.
After a brief discussion between the police led by Max Obuszewski, Malachy Kilbride and Jane Zara, joined in by other Manning supporters, we agreed on a compromise, we would stay on the DNC property but make sure to leave room for people who wanted to enter or exit the building.
We explained to DNC officials that we would stay on their property until someone met with us, took our letter and agreed to deliver it. In about ten minutes an official from the DNC came to speak to us. Deputy Chief Operations Officer Arnold Skretta came outside. We delivered the letter to him and he agreed to share it with higher officials in the Democratic Party. We insisted that we wanted President Obama to receive the letter since he had the power to end the court- martial of Bradley Manning. We also told him we would stay until he returned to confirm delivery of the letter.