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San Francisco Pride Won’t Reschedule Meeting, Board’s Decision on Bradley Manning is ‘Firm’

The board of directors for San Francisco Pride has posted another statement on Facebook that will only be further igniting controversy around the decision to rescind honoring Pfc. Bradley Manning as a Grand Marshal during the 2013 Pride Parade and Celebration.

The statement put out on Facebook late this afternoon declares, “SF Pride’s decision concerning the election process of Bradley Manning as Grand Marshal being consistent with SF Pride’s long standing Grand Marshal election policy is firm. Thus, the discussion of that matter is closed for this year.”

This development comes after over a hundred people in the San Francisco Bay Area community tried to attend a monthly meeting that, as even SF Pride Chief Operating Officer Earl Plante said, that was to be an opportunity for Pride to “try to quell the recent uproar stemming from the decision to revoke an invitation that had been extended to Private First Class Bradley Manning.”

The meeting was canceled when board members holding the meeting realized it could not continue while dozens of people were in the hallways and stairwell of the building where the meeting was taking place. The dozens of people were protesting because the board had gone ahead and held the meeting in a room that Pentagon Papers whistleblower said was the size of a “large closet,” even when they had been warned by multiple individuals that there would be many from the public showing up to participate.

As a result, only a tiny fraction of the individuals who had come to the meeting to share their views with the board on the decision were able to give public comments. Additionally, video cameras were not allowed and the board put out a statement giving a new reason for why Manning could not be honored as a Grand Marshal. They cited a technicality, a rule in Pride policy that they claimed made it improper for the person who nominated Manning to nominate him.

But, Joey Cain, the former grand marshal, who made the nomination, told Firedoglake, “I was not made aware that I was violating some policy.” And, “If they knew it was some violation of policy, why did they send out a ballot with his name on it? It’s not like I sent the ballot out personally. It was sent out of their office.”

The Board said they would reschedule, which appeared to be an acknowledgment that they would try to do this all over again and make right with the community. However, this statement is a clear indication that they do not think they have not done anything wrong and those upset in the San Francisco Bay Area should pipe down.

The statement put out this afternoon reads:

We are seeking a larger venue for the next SF Pride membership meeting, and so are postponing the May 14th meeting until a suitable location is secured. We want to allow people to have a chance to voice their opinions about the recent controversy, but also have a large event coming up, and do not want to let one issue, as important as it is to some, overshadow the concerns and interests of the hundreds of thousands who attend SF Pride. [emphasis added]

In that paragraph, Pride’s Board is attempting further marginalize the views of the hundred or so people and others in the community, who are deeply upset with how Pride has handled this so far. The “large event” is the Pride Parade and Celebration itself—the one where a portion of the community would like to see Manning honored. But, Pride has a “large event” to plan and does not have time to deal with the blowback that it continues to create.

Pride adds:

A meeting in a larger venue after the 2013 Celebration and Parade will allow people from all sides of that issue and others to fully air and hear one another’s viewpoints, without jeopardizing the production of this year’s event and the safety and security of the attendees. We ask everyone in the community to come together in Pride this June, recognizing that we can embrace difference without violence and hate. [emphasis added]

That is nothing but a veiled message of slander directed toward supporters of Manning. If a member of the board has actual evidence to substantiate these allegations that individuals are making threats and calling for violence against Board members, they should substantiate those allegations with evidence. Otherwise, they are no better than authority figures, who were targets of previous struggles waged by the LGBT community.

Pride wants the public to believe that they are making the decisions they are making because they have a “large event” to plan and they are worried about “safety and security.” However, if that was all they were concerned about, why would someone be diligently censoring the comments thread for the statement posted on Facebook? Multiple comments that Pride does not want people to read in the thread because they are critical of the organization have been hidden.

Cain left a comment, which was someone in Pride decided to hide:

The hiding of comments is a strong signal that the Board would rather handle this autocratically instead of democratically. There are people who have been involved in decisions that Pride has made, who are being frozen out by the Board.

Actions of Pride’s board are becoming increasingly craven. It cannot be forgotten that what started this was military groups in the LGBT community bombarding Pride with phone calls pleading with them to not honor Manning. They rescinded his honor in service to those groups, who did not want to respect the politics of the community members who wished to honor Manning.

Those who have been fueling protest are currently deciding what to do next. And, since Pride has chosen not to handle this scandal in a way that allows for more public participation so growing divisions can be healed, there will certainly be some immediate response from San Francisco Bay Area community members. [cont’d.]

Photo by virginied under Creative Commons license

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."