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South Florida protests Bradley Manning’s 35-year sentence

By staff

Fort Lauderdale protest against Manning sentence.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL – 20 supporters of whistleblower Private First Class Bradley Manning gathered on the evening of Aug. 21 at the Federal Building in downtown here for an emergency protest. They demanded a presidential pardon for the 25-year old whistleblower.

The action was organized by the anti-war group People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism (POWIR) in response to the 35-year jail sentence imposed on Manning earlier that day, for sharing military documents and videos of U.S. war crimes with Wikileaks. The sentencing came after Manning had already served three years, including nine months spent in solitary confinement.

As activists from South Florida arrived, they were given tape to cover their mouths as a symbol of how President Obama is silencing whistleblowers during his term. Along the sidewalk in front of the building were large letters on yellow signs spelling, “Free Manning” and demonstrators held signs reading, “Manning leaked the truth,” “Release Bradley Manning,” and “Jail our nation’s war criminals, not our whistleblowers.”

Manning disclosed injustices, human rights violations and war crimes that the U.S. military was involved with and continues to commit abroad. He believed that by exposing these ugly truths to the American public, he could help put an end to them. In her opening remarks at the protest, Pamela Maldonado, a lead organizer with POWIR explained, “Manning's sentence is being used by the Obama administration as a threat to all future whistle-blowers thinking of exposing the truth to the public.”

After the activists removed the tape from their mouths, whistles were distributed for all to blow shrilly in solidarity with Manning. The protesters shouted, “We will not be silent!” and blew their whistles loudly. As cars and trucks passed the busy intersection, many honked in solidarity. Upon seeing the protest, a few passersby picked up signs and joined the demonstration chanting, “Same thing every time, leaking truth is not a crime!”

Towards the end of the action, Victor Agosto, the lead organizer of POWIR and a Veteran for Peace member, read from Manning’s poignant and compelling statement released after the sentencing was announced. The crowd listened in silence. “I realized that in our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we had forgotten our humanity,” Agosto read. “We consciously elected to devalue life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Whistles were held until the end and once the statement was finished the crowd whistled in unison.

POWIR, Veterans for Peace, Progressive Democrats of America, Occupy Miami and Food Not Bombs members demanded that President Obama pardon Manning. The South Florida response was held in unity with actions being led by the Bradley Manning Solidarity Network on the same day. Manning’s defense team is now seeking a presidential pardon. As one of the signs held by the South Florida activists read “Call Obama 202-456-1414 and ask him to pardon Manning.”

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