FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Supporters of Army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning came from around the country to the gates of Fort Meade to encourage him and sing “Happy Birthday” on Saturday as military prosecutors who say he passed government secrets began presenting their case against him inside the Army post near Washington.

On the jailed soldier’s 24th birthday, more than 100 supporters chanted “Free Bradley Manning” and waved signs declaring “Army Pfc. Manning is an American hero,” and “Free Bradley Manning. Blowing the whistle on war crimes is not a crime.”

Juline Jordan, who flew in from Detroit to participate, said she’s glad Manning is finally getting his day in court.

“I support what he did because he exposed some horrific war crimes and horrific things done at the hands of the United States government and the Department of Defense, and he’s a hero for that,” Jordan said.

Manning is accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive items including Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, but supporters say he made important information available to the public.

After gathering by the main entrance of Fort Meade, protesters walked about a mile for a rally.

Todd Anderson, who lives in New York’s Greenwich Village, said he made the drive Saturday morning to support a hero.

“I think this man showed a great deal of courage — the kind of thing that I wouldn’t have the courage to do — and I really
consider him to be a hero,” Anderson said.

At the rally, Dan Choi, a gay activist and former Army lieutenant who was discharged from the military for revealing his
orientation, said the case has put the United States on trial for its values.

“It’s time that we unclassify the truth that the people deserve to know, for that is what we swear to uphold — those Army values,” Choi said to a cheering crowd.

Daniel Ellsberg, who revealed the secret U.S. expansion of the Vietnam War by leaking the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago and has been an outspoken supporter of Manning, was scheduled to speak, but he missed a flight and could not attend, said Jeff Paterson, a rally organizer.

Other protests took place elsewhere in the country and overseas. In London, several dozen protesters from gay organizations, the Occupy London protest camp and other groups rallied outside the U.S. Embassy calling for Manning’s release. Some held placards declaring “Free Bradley Manning” and “Happy Birthday Bradley.”

The Obama administration says the information that was released has threatened valuable military and diplomatic sources and strained the nation’s relations with other governments.

The military is holding a hearing to determine whether prosecutors have enough evidence to bring Manning to trial. He
could face a term of life in prison as a traitor.

Manning, of Crescent, Okla., has been in detention for 19 months. He is relying on a defense that much of the classified
information posed no risk.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Comments (5)
  1. Liberal Soldier says:

    Interesting. Manning spills the beans on our dirty tricks department and the memo goes out to all the networks to make him the bad guy. Maybe we all are to blame in a sense. Meddling in other nations affairs is not peeping in your neighboors windows to see what they just bought.

  2. Maria Allwine says:

    If Bradley Manning took the actions he is accused of, he is a hero, someone who understands what it truly means to uphold the Constitution and do the right and moral thing. In this country, in this time, doing the right and moral thing is a rarity. Far too many Americans are still content to remain willfully ignorant, don’t care that people in other countries are being killed by our bombs, drones and unlawful wars, and care even less that the real danger to our way of life comes not from “terrorism”, but from greedy politicians and their corporate masters. Bradley Manning deserves our undying respect. He should be free and the real criminals, Bush, Cheney, Obama and the coterie of Wall Street fraudsters and morally bankrupt CEOs should be in jail for eternity.

  3. happy bday traitor says:

    this f*ggot is a f*cking traitor!!! I hope he hangs!

  4. Tom says:

    Bradley didn’t have any noble intentions when he stole classified information and spread it everywhere to see. In a times that our country is being attacked in so many fronts his actions were dangerous and should be labeled only as treason. Incidentally using his sexuality as defense is very wrong. Being gay does not make a traitor. On the conttrary, gay people are neither weak nor traitors.

    1. wllharrington says:

      I agree totally. A traitor is a traitor. He did not have the authority to decide what was and what was not.

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