Leavenworth and London: supporting Chelsea Manning’s family visit

Early in February 2014, Chelsea Manning’s aunt and uncle Sharon and Joe from Pembrokeshire, Wales set out via London on a visit to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. For the first time, transport costs were funded by supporters and this was the first family visit since the trial. The visitors, who spent an afternoon and the following morning at the prison, were Sharon, Joe and Chelsea’s sister Casey. They found Chelsea in good spirits and focusing on legal matters including her upcoming appeal against conviction. The family’s visit is reported in this article.

07  sharon and joe

Thanks to everyone who donated to the Manning Family Fund. We are now raising funds for future visits; meanwhile, here are some photos from the family’s album.

At U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas

Sharon and Joe arrived in the U.S. from the mild if wet British winter to heavy snow and temperatures ten degrees below zero.

10 whiteout

However, they weren’t planning to let the weather put them off and made it to Leavenworth having picked up a hire car in Kansas city.

11 leavenworth

Some of you may remember the hat knitted for Chelsea by one of the Occupy Berkeley knitters. It was this hat that helped connect us with Chelsea’s Mum Susan; Sharon and Joe took it as close to Chelsea as they could manage, for a photo opportunity outside the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth

09 sharon usdb

and in the car

06 joe in hat

Support in Kansas City

On the evening of Saturday 4 February, after the first visit, Sharon and Joe met with Manning supporters Frank Cordaro of Des Moines Catholic Worker, who had driven six hours through the snow to get to Kansas, along with locals Ann Suellentrop and Marc Saviano. There is a developing hub of local support that will be able to help family members with future visits including accommodation in Kansas City if required.

08 ann frank sharon marc

3 Feb: Wishing Sharon and Joe Bon Voyage

Supporters in London gathered to share lunch with Sharon and Joe on 3 February, the day before their flight to the U.S. and to wish them well for the journey. Those present included:

Dave Turley, Eden Boucher and children

01 david eden

Dave and Eden have attended and sometimes performed at solidarity events for Manning in London, as well as organising a birthday event (complete with cake) in Adelaide, Australia on 17 December 2011.

Razz Poet and Susan Clarkson

02 razz and susan

Razz has performed at many Manning solidarity events including this one in Wrexham, Wales last November.

Susan Clarkson, of Oxford Catholic Worker, has also attended many London solidarity events and held regular Wednesday vigils for Manning at the U.S. Embassy in London during Lent, 2011.

Ciaron O’Reilly

03 ciaron

Ciaron was instrumental in initiating and sustaining the Manning solidarity effort in London and beyond from soon after Manning’s arrest in 2010 and has organised many vigils, a whole series of events at the London Catholic Worker and many other actions. Here, he speaks outside the U.S. Embassy about Manning’s courage.

Jenny and John McClean

04 jenny and john

John and Jenny McClean have steadfastly supported Manning, often providing sustained solidarity singing at vigils. Here is John singing ‘Freedom’ accompanied by Jenny at an event for Manning at Giuseppe Conlon House in 2011.

Genny Bove and Emmy Butlin

05 genny and emmy

Genny has been working alongside others in solidarity with Manning since 2010, with a focus on Welsh solidarity, reporting and maintaining a record of solidarity through photography and on blogs including this one, wiseupaction.info and on independent media.

Emmy has been active for Manning in London (read her blog here) and cooked a wonderful farewell meal for Sharon, Joe and those gathered on 3 February.

We were joined by Gerry McFlynn of the Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas, who offered his support to the family. Sharon, Joe and Ciaron later spent a couple of hours with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the early evening.

Postscript: Back in Pembrokeshire

A few of us visited family members in Pembrokeshire last weekend to catch up after the trip, to contribute to a project one of our Irish friends is working on and to give the family some of the now obsolete Bradley Manning merchandise from the Private Manning Support Network as mementos. We also made it to the beach…

12 sandy haven

For us, the important thing to know is that Chelsea is doing at least as well as anyone could expect in all the circumstances. It would be naive to imagine that she would have been unaffected by over three years in pretrial confinement, by the outrageous overcharging in the case, by the stress of all the pretrial hearings and eventual trial, and of course by the torturous conditions she endured at Quantico brig and in Kuwait before that. All these have taken their toll, but it was good to hear Sharon describe the second visit on Sunday – after the more serious discussions the previous day – like this:

It was really relaxed. Chelsea was joking around. We laughed and laughed.


Help support more family visits by donating to the fund.

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