Press release: Artists kick off effort to elevate alleged whistle-blower
April 7, 2011, by Bradley Manning Support Network.
April 9-10th has been declared International Bradley Manning Solidarity Weekend by Operation Awareness and the Bradley Manning Support Network. Socially conscious artists and organizers in dozens of locations around the globe are holding rallies and creating pop art in an attempt to elevate the alleged Wikileaks whistleblower to icon status.
Manning, who has been held in solitary confinement since last May, is alleged to have leaked a video depicting the killing of Reuters reports and wounded civilians by US Soldiers in Iraq, as well as the documents known as the Afghan War Diary, the Iraq War Logs, and the U.S. Diplomatic Cables. The documents have illuminated such topics as the civilian casualty count in Iraq and human rights abuses by foreign governments, and they are believed to have played a role in sparking the Tunisian democratic revolution.
Like Wikileaks itself, the Solidarity Weekend is an example of the kind of new possibilities the internet presents for changing democratic processes. “We started spreading the word via social media and the idea caught like wildfire!” explained an organizer from A Ride Til The End (ARTTE), the collective of veterans and artists who work as part of Operation Awareness and who initiated the idea. Solidarity Weekend events are now happening in every region of the continental U.S., as well as Canada, Australia, and Germany. Methods of protest include mural paintings, music video production, and the 444 mile “Rebel with a Cause” performance art bike tour being undertaken by ARTTE.
Solidarity Weekend activists are calling on governments to adopt greater transparency, referring to what the December, 2010 House committee on the Wikileaks controversy called “overclassification” of government documents, as well as protesting the conditions of Manning’s incarceration. The latter have prompted concern from Amnesty International and ex-State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who had to resign last month after calling Manning’s treatment “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.”
“The fortitude that Bradley Manning is exhibiting as he endures extreme pre-trial punishment at the hands of the military is inspirational,” said Jeff Paterson, project director for Courage to Resist and steering committee member of the Bradley Manning Support Network, “Political prisoners have always had the support of socially engaged artists, so it doesn’t surprise me that the arts community is now turning to Bradley’s situation.”
When asked why art was chosen as the theme, an ARTTE organizer responded: “Art has historically been used to challenge all forms of authority through expression and is a necessary tool when striving to reach a broad demographic. Art is interpretive, not absolute, giving the individual the ability to come to their own conclusions.” Operation Awareness’s website states that one goal of the events is to “honor the heroism of Bradley Manning, an openly-gay war-resisting soldier” and thus “bridge the cultural divides between the greater arts community, the burgeoning LGBTQ rights movement, and the worldwide peace and democratization movements.”