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Resist: Manning finally freed from Kansas prison

by Liz Highleyman

Chelsea Manning tweeted a photo of her first steps of<br>freedom. Photo: Courtesy Twitter
Chelsea Manning tweeted a photo of her first steps of
freedom. Photo: Courtesy Twitter  

Chelsea Manning, the trans woman who was convicted of leaking government documents, was freed from a military prison Wednesday, May 17.

Manning, 29, had served seven years of a 35-year sentence. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence in January, just days before he left office. Military officials at Fort Leavenworth and Manning's legal team confirmed she was released at about 6:30 a.m.

"First steps of freedom," Manning tweeted, showing a photo of her legs and feet.

Local activists planned a release celebration in the Castro, also serving to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. Similar celebrations are happening across the country.

Manning, then an Army intelligence analyst, was convicted of releasing some 700,000 sensitive documents to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to prison in August 2013 following a court-martial.

Assumed to be gay or transgender before she came out after her conviction, Manning roused the support of the queer community. Manning was selected as a grand marshal for the 2013 San Francisco Pride parade, but the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee board reversed the decision. This led to several contentious community meetings and ultimately resulted in the election of a more progressive board.

After she came out, Manning sought to receive hormone therapy in prison, which was approved in 2015.


Chechen protest

A more somber gathering will take place Thursday, May 18, as activists protest the treatment of gay men in Chechnya. Though details have been hard to come by, around 100 gay men are thought to have been tortured, kidnapped, and, in some cases, killed. Ramzan Kadyrov, president of the Chechen Republic, has urged families to kill their gay members. Activists in Russia are working to help the targeted men leave the country. The local vigil will take place at 6 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza, located at Castro and Market streets.

Also on Thursday, NARAL Pro-Choice America will host the San Francisco Men for Choice Happy Hour, encouraging men to come out to support and raise funds to fight for reproductive freedom. Special guests will include comedian Nato Green and Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas, along with NARAL president Ilyse Hogue. The event will take place at 6 p.m. at Tank, 1345 Howard Street.

NARAL and others are partnering with state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to launch a "California Trusts Women" pro-choice license plate. Jackson's bill to create the plate (SB 309) is now moving through the Legislature.

Three women artists were commissioned to come up with designs, with the winner to be chosen by a public vote. The $50 fee for the plate will help fund the Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment Program, which provides family planning services for low-income Californians.


Upcoming events

On Sunday, May 21, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom will host radical feminist author Susan Griffin, in conversation with queer local author and longtime progressive activist Kate Raphael. The topic will be "How War Erodes and Destroys Democracies." The event will take place at 3 p.m. at the Ed Roberts Campus, 3075 Adeline Street in Berkeley.

On May 22, Project Inform will host a forum to discuss growing threats to people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C in the Trump era, including the risk of losing access to medical care and defunding of treatment and prevention services.

Moderated by KQED's Scott Shafer, a gay man, the panel will feature Dan Bernal, a gay man who's the San Francisco chief of staff for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Ernest Hopkins, director of legislative affairs at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Harm Reduction Coalition Executive Director Monique Tula, and Project Inform staff members. The event will take place at 5:30 p.m. at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street.

June 1 is the Gathering of Joyous Persistence, which aims to bring together "engaged citizens, up-and-coming activists, and established leaders across generations dedicated to defying the current administration through positive actions and impactful organizing." The all-day event, taking place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, will culminate in a public conversation between Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid. Tickets start at $100, with some scholarships available (deadline May 19).

Also in early June, SF DocFest will screen a documentary featuring local lesbian activist Karen Topakian. Now the board chair of Greenpeace, Topakian has been arrested for activism more than 30 times over three decades, most recently for helping to hang a 70-foot banner proclaiming "RESIST" on a crane near the White House. "Arrested (Again)" will show June 4 at 12:30 p.m. and June 6 at 7:15 p.m. at the Roxie Theater.

"Activism has driven social change movements from the abolition of slavery to marriage equality," she told the Bay Area Reporter. "Plus, it provides an antidote to sadness, despair or ennui. Shake off those blues and sign up for activism."



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