Bradley Manning supporters occupy Obama's re-election campaign offices (VIDEO)
Iraq War veterans and other supporters of Private First Class Bradley Manning, 24, occupied the satellite offices of US President Barack Obama’s campaign for re-election in no fewer than three major American cities on Thursday. Manning, a veteran himself, has been charged with 22 criminal counts over his alleged role in providing Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks site with sensitive documents that were then distributed. He has been imprisoned for more than 800 days and has yet to stand trial before a military tribunal.
Speaking to reporters during this week’s demonstration, some of PFC Manning’s supporters lauded the soldier for speaking truth in the midst of a bloody war that some say the US launched without merit.“Bradley had the courage to step up and do what was right. He blew the whistle. It's time for veterans to stand up for him now, and that's what we're doing today,” veteran Scott Olsen tells US News & World Report from Obama’s Oakland, California campaign office. “It's time President Obama ensures that Bradley's mistreatment is accounted for,” he says.Olsen has been an outspoken critic not only of the United States military’s overseas operations, but the government domestic programs as well. Olsen made headlines last year when he was hit in the head by a non-lethal projectile fired by officers in Oakland who were dispersing a crowd of protesters during an Occupy Wall Street demonstration. Olsen was only 24 when he was struck last fall, an injury that sent him to the emergency room with a fractured skull.Nearly a year after the OWS demonstrations began, Olsen is still rallying behind a cause even after sustaining serious head injuries. This time around, though, he is one of dozens that took their protest out of public parks and into the president’s own office to rally for PFC Manning.
Aside from the demonstration at Obama’s Oakland office on Thursday, other protests occurred in Portland and Los Angeles campaign centers, as well as recruiting stations in Las Vegas and Seattle. Oakland’s protest ended with six arrests, with the Tribune reporting that a half-dozen demonstrators were charged with trespassing.If found guilty of aiding the enemy — just one of the nearly two dozen crimes Manning is charged with — the soldier could be sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars. According to President Obama, though, a trial might not even be necessary: in April 2011, Obama was caught on camera saying that Manning “broke the law.”
Over a year after the president made those allegations, Manning remains locked up and has been subjected to conditions both his civilian attorney and a special rapporteur for the United Nations has equated to torture.“President Obama made a… statement in May 2011: 'In the 21st century, information is power,'" Electronic Frontier Foundation staffer Rainey Reitman read aloud during Thursday’s Oakland protest."We now ask that President Obama honor those words by freeing American truth-teller Bradley Manning."
Reitman adds to US News & World Report that activists had faxed a letter to the White House earlier in the day demanding justice for Manning. When the letter was presented at the Oakland campaign offices of the president, Obama volunteers and protesters reportedly started a scuffle.