Half a dozen protesters said they paid $76,000 for tickets to a high-priced San Francisco fundraiser starring President Barack Obama Thursday to air their concerns regarding the treatment of Private Bradley Manning — the 23-year-old intelligence expert accused of being WikiLeaks’ source.
The protest occured during a breakfast fundraiser at the swank St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco Thursday.
Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn said she was a lead organizer of the event for the group which calls itself freshjuiceparty.com; she personally paid $76,000 total for tickets for the group to gain entry to the Obama event, she told us.
As the local “pool” reporter for the fundraiser, we were there with Shaky Hand Productions to capture the unusual “performance art” protest as it happened. Here’s what it looked like — catch the President looking on from the stage.
The progressive group protested what they called the inhumane treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning in the WikiLeaks case. Their protest song – which included lyrics: “We paid our dues..where’s our change?” – was sung in its entirety for Obama, who thanked them at the end of the a capella performance.
Outside, the group said that they were progressives who had worked for Obama and voted for him in 2008, but who were disappointed not only with Manning’s treatment, but with Obama’s policies on war as well.
The protest began when Pitcairn stood up about 5 minutes into the president’s stump speech as said, “Mr. President, we wrong a song — can we sing it for you?”
When he tried to suggest she wait, the group launched into the ditty, and kept singing for several minutes.
Pitcairn took off her outer shirt to reveal a tee shirt in support of Manning. Then, she stood up and announced she was leaving.
The president appeared a little set back by the lengthy song, but he thanked the group — and complimented their voices at the close.
“Where was I?” he said then, launching back into his stump speech. Pitcairn was escorted out, but was not arrested or cited by San Francisco police.
After the President’s speech, while speaking to one of the activists Obama declared Private Manning guilty. Considering that Bradley Manning hasn’t been put on trial yet, considering that he hasn’t been convicted of any crime, and yet our President has already made up his mind, when it comes to his guilt. That’s the sure sign that Bradley Manning will never get a fair trial and will be used as an example, to scare whistleblowers and deter them from exposing our government’s actions.
OBAMA: So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.
And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.
We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.
[Q: Didn’t he release evidence of war crimes?]
OBAMA: What he did was he dumped…
[Q: Isn’t that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]
OBAMA: No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way.
Unlawful Command Influence (UCI) has frequently been called the “mortal enemy of military justice.” UCI occurs when senior personnel, wittingly or unwittingly, have acted to influence court members, witnesses, or others participating in military justice cases. Such unlawful influence not only jeopardizes the validity of the judicial process, it undermines the morale of military members, their respect for the chain of command, and public confidence in the military.