Roughly 50 PeaceWorks members and friends rallied outside Fort Leavenworth in Kansas Nov. 20 in support of Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning’s petition to President Obama to reduce her sentence to time served—6 years. Manning is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth.
Manning gave thousands of diplomatic and military documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, intending to raise awareness about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Supporters claim that the information she released was already known to US enemies and was classified to keep it from the American public. Some of the documents and videos revealed US soldiers’ atrocities against civilians. Manning has already served more time than any convicted leaker in US history.
The rally was led by Henry Stoever of PeaceWorks and retired US Army Col. Ann Wright, who resigned from the US State Department in March 2003 to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq. “This is our last, best chance to get Chelsea out of prison, before Trump becomes president,” said Wright.
We at the rally were also honored to have speakers Brian Terrell, Dr. Yolanda Huet-Vaughn, Joanna, and Chase Strangio to help us understand important issues facing Manning as she seeks her freedom.
Terrell, of Maloy, IA, said he had seen the Gulag museum in Russia, with a 1950s detention cell and displays for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov. “With incarceration rates rising 70 percent in the last 40 years, someday there’s going to be a museum of hypoincarceration in the United States,” he predicted. “A special part of the museum will be devoted to Chelsea. She doesn’t need a pardon from President Obama, but thanks!”
Huet-Vaughn refused to deploy to the first Iraq War, served 9 months in the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, and currently treats several transgender persons. Joanna is a transgender activist and local counselor who has spent years in prison. Both addressed the hardships, shame, and unjust treatment Manning experiences as a woman in a men’s facility. Manning has attempted suicide twice and has been punished with time in solitary confinement for her desperation. In fact, the speakers said, solitary confinement is in direct opposition to her needs as a transgender person; a person who is transitioning is very fragile and needs quality care, counseling, socialization, and appropriate medications. Chase Strangio, Manning’s attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, was scheduled to meet face-to- face with Manning the next day. He is very concerned about the harsh conditions she is enduring, and expressed his fear that she won’t survive much longer under these conditions. Strangio texted Stoever after seeing Manning to say he let her know of our work and she is very grateful for all the efforts people are making for her freedom.
Everyone at PeaceWorks, and all in attendance at the rally, want Manning to know that despite the treatment she is enduring, it was our privilege to stand with her at this rally.
We encourage all our supporters to join us and thousands of others in asking President Obama to release Chelsea Manning on time served. Please sign the petition at petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-chelsea-mannings-sentence-time-served-1.