Day of international action for Oklahoma native on July 27
Like thousands of Bradley Manning supporters around the world, those in Oklahoma held rallies and vigils on Saturday, July 27 for the whistleblower whose court martial just concluded at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The difference for this group was being able to make their statement on the main street of Bradley Manning’s home town of Crescent, about 40 miles north of Oklahoma City.
The dual-location event, sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for Conscience, began with an early evening protest near a busy highway overpass in Oklahoma City, where 12 folks displayed a “Free Bradley Manning” banner and handmade signs and waved to cars passing by. Then they jumped in cars and vans for a caravan north up State Highway 74 to the small town where Manning was born and lived until he was a teenager.
Arriving before dusk, and meeting supporters who had traveled from Stillwater and other central Oklahoma communities, the activists gathered in front of the joint City Hall/Police Station with tealights, a large banner and signs. For an hour, as darkness descended, they quietly stood as a witness for the man they see as a truth-teller who exposed wrongdoing, lies, human rights abuses and war crimes. Several police officers came outside and quietly flanked the line of vigilers, where they remained throughout the event.
Perhaps in part due to the police presence, there was almost no negative reaction, “no more than we get anywhere else,” said Rena Guay, who organized the event. “A couple of hand signals from cars were clearly non-supportive, but there were far more instances of waves, peace signs, thumbs up, honks and even a loud ‘Thank You’,” she explained.
About halfway through their hour-long vigil, the group was joined by three young people from the town, two of whom grew up with Bradley.
“Having Crescent citizens express approval, and some even join us was a pleasant surprise,” Guay said. “We were a bit curious what the general reaction would be, and we were afraid residents might think we were protesting the town rather than honoring one of its own.”
“We are grateful to the town officials and police, who granted our request for the event, and then respectfully monitored the situation,” said James Branum, legal director of the Oklahoma Center for Conscience. “We may come back for another action when the sentence is announced in a month or two, and maybe will have a chance to eat and visit a bit at the newly reopened Okie Café, or check out the great old brick buildings and local landmarks in daylight.”
The Oklahoma Center for Conscience is a member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, and the state affiliate of the War Resisters League. For more information, see centerforconsience.org or bradleymanning.org.