Ride, event to support Bradley Manning defense fund
By Ginny Masullo
TFW Contributing Writer
“A Ride Till the End” is a collective of veterans, artists and activists riding bicycles around the U.S. until the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan ends.
The ride started in Fayetteville on May 1, 2010, when founder Jacob George and others rode out of Veterans Memorial Park. For almost a year now they have ridden across the South to raise awareness about the wars and to give a voice to returning veterans who may feel disenfranchised.
So far their journey has spanned more than 2,000 miles. At various cities on the ride, they collaborate with individuals and groups who are interested in stopping the wars supported by the U.S. Their tactics for raising awareness are always nonviolent. They see art as the most effective medium to create dialogue about the U.S. occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
‘Rebel With a Cause’ Ride
“Till the End” riders Ramsey Sprague and Jacob George are carrying on the ride with a new leg of the tour. On
March 21, participants rode out of Natchez, Miss., beginning their 444-mile “Bradley Manning: Rebel With a Cause Bicycle Tour.” Traveling along the Natchez Trace Parkway, they plan to arrive in Nashville, Tenn., on April 8.
They will speak and share their art (poetry, music and visual art) at several places such as a Unitarian church in Jackson, Miss., where they will give the Sunday sermon. A documentarian is riding along on this leg of the journey. She will photograph and video “Rebel with a Cause Ride.”
Raising awareness will not end in Nashville, says activist and rider Ramsey Sprague.
“Manning’s cause relates intricately to our concerns. His courageous act aides us in articulating what is wrong with the occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan and U.S. foreign policy in general,” said Ramsey over the telephone from New Orleans a week before he began the ride out of Natchez.
Ramsey traveled to New Orleans to help organize an event for the April 9 and 10 Bradley Manning Support Weekend. New Orleans is one of 13 cities across the country holding art events to raise awareness about Manning that weekend. From chamber music in Seattle to a video installation in New Orleans to jazz, poetry and visual art right here in Fayetteville, the 13 cities’ solidarity events are a call “to propel Bradley Manning to pop culture status through artistic expression before he goes to trial,” writes Ramsey on the “Till the End” Operation Awareness website: operationawareness.org.
Who Is Bradley Manning?
The “rebel” who this ride honors is Private First Class Bradley Manning. Manning has been imprisoned in the Quantico Marine Corps Brig for nine months, suspected of giving highly classified State Department cables to the website WikiLeaks. These documents include the “Collateral Murder” video, the “Iraq and Afghan War Diaries” and the trove of diplomatic cables known as “Cablegate.”
Capitol Hill and the Pentagon denounce Manning for his alleged role in the massive documents release, but the 23-year-old soldier has gathered high-profile defenders who argue that his case has more to do with whistleblowing than treason, which the military recently added to their accusations.
On March 19, several hundred people joined a rally outside Quantico. One of the 35 people arrested was Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the “Pentagon Papers” about the Vietnam War in 1971. Ellsberg and human rights groups, including Amnesty International, condemn Manning’s treatment in Quantico, which is a maximum-security prison. Even Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, spoke out against Manning’s treatment. At a M.I.T. seminar on March 10, 2010, Crowley described Manning’s treatment as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” Several days later Crowley resigned, allegedly under pressure from the Obama administration related to the Manning comments.
About his resignation Crowley wrote “My recent comments regarding the conditions of the pre-trial detention of Private First Class Manning were intended to highlight the broader, even strategic impact of discreet actions undertaken by national security agencies every day and their impact on our global standing and leadership. The exercise of power in today’s challenging times and relentless media environment must be prudent and consistent with our laws and values,” Crowley said. (From CNN Politics, March 13, 2011).
Need For Transparency
What is significant about Crowley’s comments in relation to “Till the End’s” stand is the need for government transparency. Back in May 2010 when Jacob George began the ride, one of his basic assertions addressed this need.
“An essential question to ask is why does the U.S. government not have transparency about what they are doing in ‘Operation Enduring Freedom?’” said Jacob George when we discussed his three tours with U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Now, as Jacob and Ramsey ride their bicycles across the Trace, they agree that “while the ramifications of what Manning courageously revealed can’t be fully understood for several years, his act will be remembered as one of the most significant acts of G.I. resistance in American history.”
Whistleblowing is Not a Crime
Jordan George, brother to Jacob and one of the primary organizers of the Fayetteville Bradley Manning event, went AWOL from the National Guard last May to begin “Till the End.” Having ridden 900-plus miles, he now works on the ground here in Fayetteville for “Till the End.” Jordan says that “when a soldier is sworn to protect the people, that commitment includes questioning orders that are not in keeping with the Geneva Conventions and revealing the lies and cover ups of war. Manning needs the country’s support, and we need to educate ourselves about his situation. That is one of the purposes of our event this Sunday, to tell people about Bradley Manning, to help people understand that whistle blowing is not a crime.”
Manning Event April 10
The “Rebel With A Cause” art event is Sunday, April 10 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The $5 ticket includes food. A by-donation cash bar with beer and wine will be available. All proceeds will go to help Manning.
Artists performing for the cause include the Fayetteville Jazz Quartet, Kelly Mulhollan of Still on the Hill and poets Doug Shields and Mohja Kahf. Jordan George will give a briefing on Bradley Manning. All during the happening, which also features a “Cool Stuff Silent Auction,” participants are encouraged to collage their hearts out on the giant collage, which will be started by artist and ex-National Guard member Gidget Andrews.
All proceeds will go to the Bradley Manning Defense Fund. The Omni Peace Center is located at 3274 N. Lee Ave. in Fayetteville, south of Liquor World.