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Have A Very Manning Christmas

Chelsea Manning paper mache float decorated in Xmas lights

All I want for Christmas is free political prisoners.

Some of you may recall that I was part of a Chelsea Manning contingent at last year’s Queerbomb, Austin’s alternative LGBTQ Pride event. With the help of some talented friends, we constructed a Chelsea Manning float.

Chelsea Manning Float, lit up at night

Merry Manning Christmas!

Since the summer, the Chelsea float has hung out in my yard — sometimes hiding from the rain under my household’s bicycle shed and other times hanging out in the front yard. It’s worn a little from the weather but still in surprisingly good shape.

Which is why last night I decorated it with Christmas lights, a simple sign and a spotlight. I’d much rather have a Christmas Manning than a Christmas Tree — especially when what I want most for the holiday season is to see political prisoners freed.

And sure it would take a Christmas miracle to do it, but I want to have HOPE that this young woman — just turned 26 earlier this month — and the many others like her will breath fresh air again soon.

I’m 35 years old now, and think back on where I was ten years ago — I barely knew how to dress myself. It’s heartbreaking to imagine facing years in prison at that age — or any other.

I’m glad President Obama pardoned some victims of the drug war recently, as I was beginning to wonder if he remembered the power existed. But the drug war rages on at great expense in human lives worldwide. And how many languish in prison, or worse, solitary, who were never violent or harmful to others? How many are inside for speaking their minds a little too loudly, or exercising their journalistic powers in the wrong ways?

When people ask me why I don’t support the President, Chelsea Manning is always my first example — she’s imprisoned for, in part, revealing the murder of two journalists to the world. How could I, a journalist (whatever Dianne Feinstein thinks) support a regime which prefers to cover up murder and imprison whistleblowers rather than supporting freedom of speech?

And though Obama may have been elected on a wave of “HOPE,” it’s Chelsea Manning and other heroes like her who give me real hope during these dark times, in these darkest of days.

I’ll be sending some photos of the float to Manning, along with my solidarity and well wishes. Read on to find out how you can write to her too.

Writing to Chelsea Manning

Many political prisoners need our support especially during the holidays. Operation PenPal maintains an extensive list of prisoners and guidelines for how to write and what to send

Remember, you must write to Chelsea Manning using her full legal name on the outside of the envelope, but should use her chosen name in all your correspondence.

Bradley E. Manning #89289
1300 N Warehouse Rd
Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-2304

More: Take action with Pvt. Manning Support Network!

Here’s hoping you take some downtime this holiday season to write a political prisoner, have a Very Manning Christmas, and a New Year rich with loud, proud, free speech.

Photos by Kit O’Connell, released under a Creative Commons license. Thanks Brian Sonenstein for suggesting this post.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and