Protesters Gather in Support of Accused WikiLeaks Source
Supporters of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning gathered at the main gate of Fort Meade. Many of the protesters have been involved in Occupy Wall Street and similar movements.
With accused WikiLeaks source Pfc. Bradley Manning set to appear at a judicial hearing Friday at Fort Meade, protesters from throughout the Northeast gathered at the installation’s main gates to call for his release.
About 100 of Manning’s supporters, many of them involved in Occupy Wall Street and similar movements, hailed him as an advocate for truth and government transparency.
“We wanted to support someone who did what he thought was right,” said Sean O’Connor, who has been involved in the Occupy Newark movement in New Jersey. “A lot of what he released helped bring about the Arab Spring, which has influenced Occupy Wall Street, so we owe him a debt of gratitude.”
Several hundred more protesters were expected to arrive at Fort Meade later Friday, and a march and rally are scheduled for Saturday.
Manning, an Army intelligence officer, is accused of releasing thousands of pages of classified information to the website WikiLeaks. He was scheduled to appear at Fort Meade for a preliminary Article 32 hearing, designed to determine whether he will face a court martial.
Damian Smith, 29, and his roommate Ryan Milam, 20, traveled on a bus from New York City for the protest. They planned to meet up with Occupy D.C. protesters later Friday before heading home.
“We’re against government corruption, in general,” Smith said. “There’s so much, there are so many issues … where do you begin?”
Smith said the support for Manning is an example of how the Occupy Wall Street movement has broadened to include a wide range of issues, including health care and home foreclosures.
“It encompasses a lot,” he said.
John Penley, a former Navy air traffic control officer, said Manning should not be vilified for the release of videos of air strikes in Afghanistan and Baghdad, in which some civilians died.
"I believe soldiers have a duty not to cover up war crimes," he said.
Protesters Friday included Dan Choi, an openly gay former Army lieutenant who has spoken out against the military's former policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" regarding gay service members.
"We're all here today to support a good soldier," Choi said.
Traffic along Route 175 in front of Fort Meade was not disrupted Friday. On Saturday, one of the eastbound lanes of Route 175 is expected to close from Reece Road to Blue Water Boulevard to accommodate a march and rally.