On a hot summer day, hundreds of supporters of Pfc. Bradley Manning gathered outside the gates of Fort Meade in Maryland, where Manning’s trial is scheduled to begin on June 3. They came on Saturday from cities on the east coast and other parts of the United States to show their support for someone they consider to be not only a whistleblower but also a hero.
I arrived around 1 pm as the demonstration was about to begin. A few speakers spoke outside the visitor’s gate, which I have become familiar with because it is where I must go to get to the parking lot where media is checked in each morning.
A march took off from this area and headed down the road that runs along Meade. Two gates down, supporters gathered around a stage and heard speeches from prominent Manning supporters like Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, Col. Ann Wright, Lt. Dan Choi and Sarah Shourd, who was one of the hikers imprisoned in solitary confinement in Iran.
The heat was brutal and, as I was recording Ellsberg’s speech, my phone overheated.
Police presence and security was not very intrusive at all. The local police facilitated the assembly as all police forces throughout America should do when citizens want to gather and demonstrate.
Meade shut the gates and blocked off entrances so no supporters could march on base. That is okay because none of the supporters planned to engage in any nonviolent direct action of that nature.
Military police within the base were on ATVs speeding back and forth along the perimeter of the base. Dirt was kicked up and blew into the faces of supporters regularly. It was unclear what the dirt racing was accomplishing in terms of security, but, undoubtedly, it gave military police a way to make supporters recognize they were present and were not to be messed with.
Emma Cape of the Bradley Manning Support Network announced during the rally that an officer had sent out a notice to those on base warning that 1,400 people would be protesting but not against the fact that the US military was putting Manning on trial. The notice suggested people were gathering in support of the trial.
According to Ellsberg, who did at least three hours of interviews, the media present that wanted to talk to him at the rally were all foreign press except for one outlet from the US: Fox News. The recent story about Fox News reporter James Rosen being labeled a “co-conspirator” in a leak investigation has led Fox News to decide the war on whistleblowers might be worth covering.
Below are photos from the rally and a video: