Pride and Interruption: Bradley Manning and the San Francisco Pride Parade

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By Lucien Mae

Becca von Behren and about 25 other protestors met the day of the SF Pride Parade to figure out what action they were going to take to make a stand about the board’s decision to revoke Manning’s appointment as Marshall.

“It was the day of the parade and we’re all standing around going are we gonna do a die in? But we didn’t know what that would mean for the parade—we didn’t want to stop it, so we decided to just interrupt it.” Von Behren, an activist who works with the newly revived Act Up! chapter of San Francisco, felt that a statement had to be made.

When she first heard about the decision to revoke Manning’s appointment, she initially decided not to go. “You know I said fuck Pride, I’m not gonna do that,” but realized that not participating also meant her voice wouldn’t be heard. “You know the phrase ‘you have to be a part of it in order to change it?’ I hate that phrase, but in some ways, it’s true.”

Not showing up meant one less person showing their support for Manning, and one less voice against the Board’s decision.

So when, a week before Pride, von Behren heard about the plan to meet up at Pride and somehow interrupt it, she decided to participate. The plan was set to take some kind of action against the parade, to show the anger and frustration she had with the Board’s depiction on Manning as a threat to people and to the military, a stance that she deeply disagreed with and feels goes against the spirit of Pride.

“The way that the board just supported the military, and condemned Manning before he even went to trial was disgusting,” said von Behren.

The group decided that the best way to voice their disgust and anguish at the decision was to make sure that their support for Manning was the first thing people saw when the Parade marched down the street.

While the Bradley Manning contingent of the SF Pride Parade actively showed how some in the queer community supported Manning and his actions, von Behren and a few other activists marched in front of it.

Their action, known as the Manning Break-In, was the first thing people saw when the Parade approached. The banners with phrases such as “Manning blew the whistle, Pride just blew it”, were seen before the Parade’s own banner celebrating its theme, “Embrace, Encourage, Empower.”

“The best thing was the reaction from the crowd, all the support we got from people,” said von Behren. While there were a few voices condemning Manning as a traitor in the crowd, many joined the activists in chanting support for Manning as the Parade approached, and yelled their support for his whistle blowing.

“We marched the whole way through with the Parade, and then I ran back and marched with the contingent, and it was just different, great, but being part of the Parade, we got the same, you know [the]‘Wooos’ that all the contingents of the Parade get.”

Defying the Parade’s regulations about applying for a contingency spot within the Parade, and interrupting the Parade’s order, was very important for von Behren, and for the activists involved.

The most rewarding experience was knowing they had made a difference, they had changed the face of Pride for that year, despite the board’s wish to endorse militarism and shun Manning and his actions.

“So many people, so many of my friends, thanked me for doing that, for marching at the front.”

429Magazine

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