Archive for June, 2013

Talking about Guantanamo and Bradley Manning in front of the White House

Interview by April Watters, in front of the White House June 26.

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Bradley Manning & Guantanamo: Resistance More Relevant Than Ever


Protesting at the Gates of Fort Meade for Bradley Manning

Saturday, we gathered at Ft. Meade for the largest support action for Bradley Manning during the three+ years of his imprisonment before trial.  I saw MANY subscribers to the World Can’t Wait e-newsletter list, donors to the recent New York Times “Close Guantanamo” ad, activists from years of opposition to U.S. wars, and younger people who have come forward mainly because they are inspired by the integrity and honesty of Bradley Manning.

Bradley, at the center of the most important political trial of this century, is an extraordinary person, motivated (as we now know), by the wish to get people living in this country to see what the government is doing.  The high stakes here described by Revolution Newspaper are:

“This system is out to inflict extreme punishment on Bradley Manning—to jail him for a long time, perhaps life, and to use this cruel punishment of a brave person as an example to anyone else who would dare expose the crimes of empire. The courage and resilience with which Manning has withstood years of solitary confinement and almost a year of torture are a testament to his strength.”

Emma Kaplan, in Free Bradley Manning: The World is Not the Enemy quotes Bradley in explaining how much he learned:

“I also recall that in early 2009 the then newly elected president, Barack Obama, stated he would close Joint Task Force Guantanamo, and that the facility compromised our standing over all, and diminished our, quote unquote, “moral authority.” After familiarizing myself with the DABs, I agreed….

“The more I became educated on the topic, it seemed that we found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely that we believed or knew to be innocent, low-level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligence and would’ve been released if they were held in theatre.”

Attorney Michael Ratner, this morning on Democracy Now!, explained the breadth of the Espionage statute, where the government does not have to prove either intent to aid the enemy, or actual aiding of the enemy, to convict Bradley of six espionage charges (which carry the death penalty, although the government says it is “only” seeking life in prison for Bradley). Chillingly, the government, in its opening statement yesterday, referred frequently to Julian Assange and Wikileaks, likely targets of prosecution. Assange wrote Monday on the “Kafkaesque” nature of the trial:

“It is fair to call what is happening to Bradley Manning a “show trial.” Those invested in what is called the “US military justice system” feel obliged to defend what is going on, but the rest of us are free to describe this travesty for what it is. No serious commentator has any confidence in a benign outcome. The pretrial hearings have comprehensively eliminated any meaningful uncertainty, inflicting pre-emptive bans on every defense argument that had any chance of success.

“Bradley Manning may not give evidence as to his stated intent (exposing war crimes and their context), nor may he present any witness or document that shows that no harm resulted from his actions. Imagine you were put on trial for murder. In Bradley Manning’s court, you would be banned from showing that it was a matter of self-defence, because any argument or evidence as to intent is banned. You would not be able to show that the ’victim’ is, in fact, still alive, because that would be evidence as to the lack of harm.”

The New York Times, finally reporting on the trial, related part of the opening arguments from Bradley’s attorney, David Coombs, explaining how Bradley was motivated to leak evidence of U.S. war crimes:

“Mr. Coombs said Private Manning started sending files to WikiLeaks later, in January 2010, after a roadside bombing in Iraq on Dec. 24, 2009. Everyone in his unit celebrated, Mr. Coombs said, after learning that no American troops had been seriously hurt, and their happiness did not abate — except for Private Manning’s — when they learned that members of an innocent Iraqi family had been injured and killed. From that moment, Mr. Coombs contended, things started to change and he soon “started selecting information he believed the public should see, should hear” and sending them to WikiLeaks.”

Many people have ordered Collateral Murder from us.

YOU MUST have this DVD and show it to others.  Get it now.


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Stop-and-Frisk Protesters NOT Guilty in Queens

NOT Guilty in Queens. Stop-and-frisk defendants, attorneys and jurors

NOT Guilty in Queens. Stop-and-frisk defendants, attorneys and jurors

Another Queens jury didn’t accept the District Attorney’s argument that protesters committed any crime back in November of 2011 when we marched on the 103rd NYPD Precinct, second in Queens in stop-and-frisks.  To two counts of Obstructing Government Administration, they said, NOT guilty.  But they could not get past the idea that the police ordered people to move — even if it was not a lawful order — and convicted Greg, Noche, Ribka and Matt of disorderly conduct, a violation.  They will be sentenced on July 18.

Any time the prosecutors slink out of a courtroom, it’s cause for celebration, and we are glad there were no criminals convictions. Attorney Marty Stolar, part of the legal team who defended the freedom figthers, said tonight, “I am satisfied with the verdict but also disappointed. I wanted the whole thing.”  There was no lawful order for protesters to be dispersed, and they should not have been convicted.

A most interesting scene developed outside the criminal courts building afterward.  Although one alternate juror declined to speak to us, and another juror said “no comment” as to her thoughts on stop-and-frisk after two weeks of hearing about it, 4 jurors and one alternate hung out for quite awhile with defendants, attorneys, and supporters.  There were hand-shakes and hugs.  They said, as jurors in the last case said, that they were most concerned that our defendants not get any jail time.  “You all are great people!”  They wanted to finally meet the defendants, and attorneys, and learn more background.

Discussing stop-and-frisk outside Queens Criminal Court.  Attorney Steve Silverblatt; defendant Ribka Getachew, and attorney Mani Taferi speaking with juror.

Discussing stop-and-frisk outside Queens Criminal Court. Attorney Steve Silverblatt; defendant Ribka Getachew, and attorney Mani Taferi speaking with juror.

An older African American man was most outspoken and warmly hugged defendants.  We asked if his opinion of stop-and-frisk had changed, and he said yes.  “I still think it could do some good.  But it’s so unfair how only certain groups of people are stopped.”  Another juror said the defendants, and our attorneys, were “really interesting, honest people, but we didn’t like the police or the District Attorney’s attitude.”  She said the contempt for the defendants showed by the D.A’s alienated the jury, a fact they talked about in deliberations.

The jurors asked to know more about our movement, and got flyers about the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.  All said that the experience of the trial had given them a lot to think about in terms of how the courts and police work.  A very basic question they asked: why did they system spend two weeks trying people for something that was completely non-violent and lawful, when there are real crimes being committed?

There are still five defendants to be tried on these same charges: Elaine Brower, Calvin Barnwell, John Hector, Richie Marini, to be tried Tuesday July 8, and Christina Gonzalez, whose case has been severed and is not yet scheduled for trial.  We have no expectation that the DA will drop the OGA charges.

Mani Taferi, Greg Allen, Marty Stolar, Steve Silverblatt and jurors

Mani Taferi, Greg Allen, Marty Stolar, Steve Silverblatt and jurors

There is MUCH more to learn from the scene in Queens.  The controversy over stop-and-frisk in the city, particularly the Floyd v City of New York lawsuit in federal court, and the way in which the NYPD’s policy has become an issue in the mayoral race — because it’s now more widely seen as a big problem — affected this trial.  More importantly, it shows how potentially widespread opposition to it could be, and what a responsibility we have to carry forward resistance to this practice, and to mass incarceration, so that even more people see that there is no good reason for the authorities to get away with locking up so many people.

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