At the moment, there are 308 stories on Google News about Berkeley’s Peace & Justice Commission’s proposal to “support and free Pfc Bradley Manning and proclaim him a hero”. They range from the outraged (“Berkeley Gives America the Middle Finger” on Fox) to the more measured (“GI’s supporters still awaiting WikiLeaks donation” on the Washington Post).
Manning is being held in the brig at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, on charges of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks and faces a possible court-martial.
The commission had voted on the resolution at its November 1 meeting. The Peace & Justice Commission’s own website, however, has no minutes later than June, and although its meetings are scheduled for the first Monday of each month, they don’t appear on the city’s community calendar. So news about the resolution only broke yesterday when the City Council’s agenda committee produced its packet following a Monday night meeting. Carolyn Jones covered the story in the San Francisco Chronicle and all hell broke loose. The resolution will come before the City Council at its meeting next Tuesday.
“The language of the resolution is pretty inflammatory. To some he’s a hero and to others he’s a traitor,” said Mayor Tom Bates in an interview with Berkeleyside today. He pointed out that Manning himself has not spoken about his purported role. “There are so many unanswered questions about this issue. My personal view is it’s premature to consider it and we shouldn’t do anything.”
Bates does not think it inappropriate for Berkeley to take a stance on national and international issues. “Berkeley has always taken a lead on things,” he said. “Not everyone agrees with that view. When we came out against the war in Vietnam a lot of people said that was wrong. When we urged divestment from South Africa people said we were crazy.”
Bates said, however, that the job of the city government is to “run the city” and ensure that it stays “within budget and provides good services to the citizens”. “If I spent my entire time on national and international issues,” he said, “I’d be a pretty bad mayor.”