More honking and hand gesturing than normal occurred Jan. 14 during the lunch hour at the intersection of N.W. 23rd Street and Broadway, but it wasn’t because of an in-store appearance by Ronald McDonald, and the gestures were mostly peace signs.
A group of about 20 people held signs, wore T-shirts and passed out fliers in support of Crescent native Bradley Manning, the subject of our “WikiLeaker?” cover story Dec. 29, 2010. Several signs read “Honk for Peace,” “Honk for Oklahoma’s Bradley Manning” and “Republican against the war.” The Hamburglar was unavailable for comment.
U.S. Army Pfc. Manning was arrested while stationed in Iraq in May for allegedly leaking thousands of secret and classified documents to the website WikiLeaks, including the “Collateral Murder” video of civilians being shot at by helicopter gunners in Iraq, Afghanistan war documents and thousands of diplomatic cables.
Manning, who is awaiting trial, could face up to 52 years in prison, and is being held at the Marine Brig in Quantico, Va., on prevention of injury status, meaning he remains in his cell for 23 hours per day.
Manning’s alleged actions have been praised by some and condemned by others.
“Whoever in our government leaked that information is guilty of treason, and I think anything less than execution is too kind a penalty,” former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee told reporters in late November.
Local organizers said they held the demonstration for several reasons, including Manning’s connection to the state.
“The issue for us today is that Bradley Manning is being held in high security isolation pending his trial. He’s been in isolation for seven months,” said Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House, which co-sponsored the demonstration. “We feel this is inhumane treatment. He’s not been convicted of anything, and there’s no indication that he’s violent toward himself or others.”
Rena Guay, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, the event’s second sponsor, said if Manning did leak the documents, he should be hailed as a hero for exposing the truth.
“Regardless of whether he’s guilty, he needs to be kept in humane conditions,” Guay said. “Our bottom line is even if he was the one who exposed the war crimes, it’s the war crimes that need to be investigated and punished, not the one who exposed them.”