Today, a coalition of groups including Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and BORDC/DDF delivered over 115,000 petition signatures to the Secretary of the Army demanding that the Army drop new charges against Chelsea Manning and give her access to adequate healthcare immediately.
In a press conference following the petition drop off, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg (a BORDC/DDF advisory board member) declared that “Chelsea Manning is a hero of mine,” and expressed concern that the Army’s actions “seem designed… to break her down as a human being. These charges appear to me to be sadistic and outrageous.” In July, Manning attempted suicide, and the Army has charged her with a list of offenses having to do with the attempt, including “resisting the force cell move team” when she was unconscious. The charges could result in her being returned to solitary confinement and/or denied parole. “She is human, she isn’t superhuman,” Ellsberg said. “She has borne up with this for 6 years with dignity.” Manning was arrested and imprisoned in 2010.
The charges Manning faces are administrative, which means she won’t be represented by counsel when she has to appear to face the charges. It’s not known exactly when her hearing will be, or what punishment authorities will ask for. Fight for the Future’s Evan Greer, who is regularly in communication with Manning, said that this uncertainty adds to Manning’s stress at a time when she is extremely vulnerable, and vowed to keep the public pressure on the Army.
Chelsea’s attorney at the ALCU, Chase Strangio was asked if the punishment was politically motivated, and responded that “much of her treatment has been so egregious, it’s hard to believe she is not being targeted.” Ellsberg agreed, calling these new charges against Manning “absurd.” When asked if Manning is a political prisoner, Ellsberg said he hadn’t thought about that question but answered, “intuitively, yes.”
The petition demands that Manning get the medical treatment she needs. Diagnosed with gender dysphoria by the Army, she is not only not getting appropriate healthcare, but she is being held in a prison for men, and forced to get her haircut regularly, which is needlessly cruel. Strangio noted that Attorney General Loretta Lynch has publicly recognized that transgender women are indeed, women and should be treated that way. Until you get to prison, he added.