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Tampa protest: Free Bradley Manning!

By Matt Hastings

Solidarity with Bradley Manning, Tampa, Florida

Tampa, FL – On June 1 over 50 activists rallied at the MacDill Air Force Base, calling for the release of whistleblower Bradley Manning.

Bradley Manning, a former intelligence analyst for the U.S. Army, is being prosecuted for his role in releasing videos and documents that exposed U.S. war crimes and civilian casualties in Iraq and the Middle East. Manning is charged with “aiding the enemy.”

The U.S. held Manning in solitary confinement for the first ten months of his incarceration, a form of torture that is widely used in U.S. prisons. The case of Manning is drawing worldwide condemnation. Activists around the world are rallying on behalf of Manning and drawing attention to U.S. aggression and illegal acts, especially the ongoing U.S. war and occupation in Afghanistan.

The Bradley Manning Support Network called for an international week of solidarity starting June 1, in anticipation of the beginning of Manning’s trial on June 3. Activists mobilized in many U.S. cities, with nearly 1000 protesting outside Fort Meade, near Baltimore, Maryland where Manning’s court-martial trial will take place. Across the globe, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Afghan Peace Volunteers gathered to thank Manning.

Tampa’s demonstration was at the gates of MacDill Air Force Base, the main headquarters for United States Central Command. U.S. CentCom runs the wars and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. An organizer said MacDill Air Force Base is “the center of decisions that slaughter hundreds of thousands globally. Decisions that prompted Bradley Manning to bravely release the truth to Wikileaks!”

Activists held giant banners that said “Free Bradley Manning” and received honks in support from guests entering the base. Supporters from the LGBTQ community held rainbow flags in support of Manning. Protesters chanted “Free Bradley Manning!” and “Jail a hero, what a shame, we know CentCom is to blame!” Members of the Tampa Light Brigade held giant letters that spelled out, “Bradley leaked truth.” In the middle of the protest, activists participated in a silent skit, with actors portraying the brutality of the war on Iraqi people and the resilience of Arab Spring protesters against U.S. backed dictators.

Jailing activists who stand against U.S. wars and occupations is not a new phenomenon, nor is using court-martials or grand jury trials as a tool of political repression. From the Anti-war 23, raided in September 2010 for their anti-war and international solidarity activism, to Bradley Manning, U.S. government agencies, such as the FBI, continue to attempt to silence those who speak out against U.S. war and aggression.

The Tampa Bay Bradley Manning Support Network, Veterans for Peace, Students for a Democratic Society, Tampa Light Brigade, Occupy Tampa and others vowed to fight these attacks and build resistance against political repression in the U.S.

#TampaFL #AntiwarMovement #WikiLeaks #BradleyManning #USImperialism #InjusticeSystem #FBIRepression