Supporters of whistle-blower, transgender activist Chelsea Manning will gather in several cities around the world on her 29th birthday to appeal to President Obama to commute her prison sentence to time served.
In Chicago, the Chelsea Manning vigil will take place at the center of the LGBTQ entertainment district, Halsted & Roscoe Streets, at 5:30 pm, Saturday, December 17th.
Manning is best known for her release to Wikileaks of the notorious "collateral murder video," which showed U.S. troops coldly gunning down ten Iraqi civilians, including children, journalists and adult civilians who attempted to rescue those hit during the initial attack. No U.S. military personnel were disciplined for the unprovoked attack, but for the release of this video and numerous other embarrassing documents, Chelsea Manning has "served more time behind bars than any other whistleblower in history," according to a recent article in The New Republic.
Among the documents released by Manning that proved deeply embarrassing to the Obama and former George W. Bush administrations, were State Department cables showing that President Obama's ambassador to Honduras had advance knowledge of the then-impending 2009 military coup against Honduras's democratically elected president, Manuel Zalaya. Zalaya had implemented policies such as a minimum wage that were popular among the poor, but angered that country's wealthy oligarchs.
In the wake of the coup, the new regime and its wealthy allies slaughtered numerous activists from all sectors, including dozens of LGBTQs. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played the lead role in ending the coup regime's diplomatic isolation, and the Obama administration refused to follow the Foreign Assistance Act, which bans military assistance to regimes installed by military coups.
Other documents released by Manning via Wikileaks showed the Bush and Obama administrations' close ties to oligarchs in Tunisia, information which helped spark the 2010 "Arab Spring," a series of revolts against dictators in that country and several other countries around the Middle East.
"Because her revelations embarrassed both leading Democrats and Republicans alike, most wealthy LGBT non-profits have refused to speak out in defense of Chelsea Manning, even though she is arguably the most impactful LGBTQ activist of our generation," said Andy Thayer, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network and an organizer of Chicago's vigil. "It is to their eternal shame that the National LGBTQ Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign and numerous other wealthy NGOs value their ties to the Democratic Party over solidarity with a courageous transgender sister who has sacrificed so much."
According to The New Republic, Manning was "held in solitary confinement for 11 months before her trial, which she likened to torture; and it took Army officials nearly 18 months after she sought treatment for gender dysphoria to approve her for hormone treatments, but she is still required to conform to male military dress standards." President-Elect Trump has vowed to erase all protections for transgender military personnel, including for those like Chelsea who are incarcerated.
"The end of presidencies is a traditional time for pardons, and so for several years to come, the next few weeks is Chelsea Manning's best bid to finally win her freedom," said long-time Chicago transgender activist June LaTrobe. "I urge all who support the rights of our LGBTQ community to support Chelsea Manning's appeal to President Obama to commute her sentence to time served."
A petition to President Obama to commute Manning's sentence can be found here: petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/commute-chelsea-mannings-sentence-time-served-1 .