Protesters demonstrate support for Wikileaks soldier

Demonstrators gather at 4th and Mission in San Francisco, to protest the detention of Private Bradley Manning on March 20, 2011. Manning has been held for allegedly passing classified data to WikiLeaks. Edward Chow / staff photographer

For the most determined of Bradley Manning’s supporters, nothing will stop their fight to ensure his well-being.

A group of demonstrators from various anti-war, peace-seeking groups gathered Sunday at Yerba Buena Gardens, and later the Metreon, braving San Francisco’s unpredictable weather to call for humane treatment of the 23-year-old former U.S. Army soldier.

Manning is suspected of revealing the actions and policies of the U.S. military overseas–many controversial-­-and passing them to a number of outside sources, namely Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

“They’re trying to break him,” said Richard Becker, west coast coordinator of ANSWER Coalition. “He’s being tortured; they’re using the same methods on him as they do with prisoners at our military bases around the world.”

Manning, who also awaits a hearing on whether he’ll face a court martial, is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” at Marine Corps Base Quantico near Triangle, Va, where he has been held since July 2010.

Since March 18, worldwide demonstrations from Washington D.C. to Finland have garnered an outpouring of support for Manning.

Sunday’s protest was the second part of a two-day anti-war event held in San Francisco and demonstrators questioned the role of the U.S. government and its military in the handling of the Manning case and his treatment within Quantico.

“I think it’s an outrage at the way he’s being treated,” said Emma Cape, a representative of couragetoresist.org, a group which supports men and women in the armed forces who refuse to fight. “This is only hurting America’s image at home and abroad and is a real challenge to our country’s first amendment rights.”

Reports have surfaced that Manning has been deprived of sleep, periodically held in solitary confinement, forced to sleep unclothed in his cell, and is currently being shackled 23 hours a day.

Cape’s statement was in sync with a fellow protester, who found it hypocritical that Manning was punished for the same crime that, 40 years ago, was found commendable in a different presidential administration.

“I find it indecent that a mass murderer like Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld can get book deals after what they did in Vietnam, but somebody like Bradley Manning reports it and is thrown in prison,” said artist and activist Angelina Llongeras, who read several poems to the crowd.

“I think that it’s unfair what Brad is going through,” Llongeras said.

The issue of free speech struck a heavy tone with many of the protesters.

“The anti-war Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers really brings freedom of speech into question,” said Loraine Reitman of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Sunday’s protest was not met with opposition, though the San Francisco Police Dept. deployed officers.

“What we continue to do for Bradley Manning today and tomorrow makes a difference,” said Mike Wong, vice president of Veterans for Peace. The anti-war organization is comprised of past military veterans who wish to “promote alternatives” to war.

Additional protests in support of Manning and against war are scheduled in San Francisco on April 9 and 10.

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