There was a strengthened City of London police presence as Occupy London activists demanded freedom for Bradley Manning on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in London at the end of last week.
Manning, who is a US army soldier, was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq on suspicion of having passed restricted material to WikiLeaks. An additional 22 charges were brought in March 2011, including "aiding the enemy," technically a capital offence.
The detained soldier, who has been backed by peace, civil liberties and human tights campaigners, was found fit to face court martial in April 2011. He currently awaits his first hearing next month.
The London protest took place while US Ambassador to Britain, Louis Susman, was attending the annual Thanksgiving service at St Paul's Cathedral, along with a sizeable number of US expatriates.
US citizens living in Britain were also among those demanding Bradley Manning's freedom.
Anthony Timmons, a member of the OccupyLSX tranquility team declared: “The weight of public opinion is with us as we stand up for Bradley Manning. Not only that, fifty of the US’ top congressional scholars – including Laurence Tribe, the top Harvard academic who trained Barack Obama - agree that Bradley Manning must face a fair public trial, not a military tribunal.”
Mr Manning, raised in Wales and a UK citizen by virtue of his mother’s nationality, has been imprisoned for the last 18 months in Baghdad, Kuwait, Quantico and Leavenworth.
The treatment meted out to him in Quantico prompted the official interest of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and the British and German governments and sparked off demonstrations across the world.
That international solidarity campaign contributed to Bradley’s move to improved prison conditions this April - a development welcomed by his family.
Last week, the US Department of Defense announced that Bradley’s courts-martial process will begin with a preliminary hearing at at Fort Meade, Maryland, on 16 December – the day before his 24th birthday.
A day of international solidarity with Manning has been called for 17 December 2011. Occupy LSX at St Paul’s will be hosting the London action, and said it is proud to be doing so.
Natalia James, an OLSX supporter, explained: “We do not know if Bradley is guilty of what he is accused of but, if he is, he is a true hero. Holding public institutions and governments responsible for their actions is a vital part of the fight for real democracy and few figures exemplify that more than Bradley Manning, who has managed to achieve that even while being in prison. That is why Bradley’s cause is so important to us here at Occupy London.”
* More from Ekklesia on Bradley Manning: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/bradleymanning
* FreeBradley.org: http://www.freebradley.org/english.html
* Bradley Manning Support Network (US): http://www.bradleymanning.org/
* Occupy LSX: http://occupylsx.org/