In a press release on the afternoon of May 7 prior to their monthly board meeting, the San Francisco Pride Board of Directors released a statement intended to clarify the reasons that Bradley Manning was named a community grand marshal before having that honor revoked.
In their release they argue that "the community grand marshal upon whom the Electoral College votes is defined as 'a local hero (individual) not being a celebrity' … Because Mr. Manning is not local, by definition under the Grand Marshal policy, he may not be nominated or elected by the Electoral College as its community grand marshal."
This release comes on the heels of a protest on April 29 in which many community leaders protested SF Pride for their decision to revoke the honor they'd voted to bestow upon Bradley Manning.
Speakers at the April 29 protest included a wide range of military perspectives from Daniel Ellsberg, famous for releasing the Pentagon Papers, to John Caldera, an honorably discharged U.S. Navy corpsman and openly gay member of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Commission. Also present was Rainey Reitman, who founded the Bradley Manning Support Network and spoke of the work of supporters, while Stephen Funk, a gay man who was court-martialed for his opposition to the Iraq war, called Manning a "freedom fighter."
Almost all the speakers at the protest referenced SF Pride Board President Lisa William’s press release on April 27 which said, "Bradley Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and women in uniform — and countless others, military and civilian alike — will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride. It is, and would be, an insult to every one, gay and straight, who has ever served in the military of this country."
Caldera responded at the rally that "SF Pride sponsors include Bank of America and Wells Fargo, who have foreclosed on hundreds of veteran families" and went on to call for Lisa William's resignation over the issue.
One former grand marshal, Gary Virginia, demanded an explanation of the process through which grand marshals are selected, and said until the board did so it not only would fail to represent the community, but also taint the honor of former grand marshals if the process was found to be unrepresentative. He assured the crowd that as a co-founder of the Pride Brunch fundraiser, their event would honor Manning.
While SF Pride's newest press release doesn't address all of the protesters concerns, nor does it address a recent complaint filed against it at the San Francisco Human Rights Commission concerning Mr. Manning — it does backpedal on the former political reasons for removing Mr. Manning's nomination by changing the reason for revoking the honor to a technical byline. Whether or not this new tactic from SF Pride will remove the controversy surrounding the issue remains to be seen.
NOTE: This story has continued to develop as SF Pride's Board had their monthly meeting Monday night. SF Pride called in police to remove protesters and promised to hold public comment in the future at a larger venue, however, no date has been announced.