The Good News in Terms of Solidarity with U.S. Prisoner Pvt. Manning & Family
by Ciaron O’Reilly, London Catholic Worker, Giuseppe Conlon House, London
Fr. Dan Berrigan SJ has been heard to remark of late that although good secular friends such as Chomsky, Scahill et al. are increasingly proficient at bringing us the bad news – it is important for people of faith to spread the good news. Dan, now 94, only takes to reading the New York Times every 10 days or so, balancing this with a daily diet of reading CW newsletters & other reports of good news from communities of nonviolent resistance.
WHERE WE’VE BEEN…
For the past 3+ years, the Catholic Worker in England has been a central component in generating “on the street” solidarity for the persecuted Julian Assange & Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. This role fell to us, as those with the resources failed to do the job they are paid to do.
Indeed, support & solidarity for those who stepped beyond protest into nonviolent resistance to U.S./U.K. wars was in short supply from the professional class of anti-war & human rights NGOs in Britain. Those resisters who faced courts & prison, included plowshares & decommissioners who disabled weapon systems, dissenting members of the military like Michael Lyons who refused to deploy to Afghanistan and those who exposed the wars such as Julian Assange & Pvt. Manning.
So with minimal resources, and friends we made on the way, we accompanied Julian Assange through multiple court appearances in London and as he sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge.
Whenever Manning was dragged before the military courts in the U.S. we gathered in solidarity outside the U.S. embassy in London. In the three months of this past summer’s military trial we maintained a consistent presence on London streets alerting people to the U.S. persecution and to Pvt. Manning’s Welsh connections.
THE GOOD NEWS…
At Giuseppe Conlon Hall in August 2013 on the eve of the conviction & sentencing of Pvt. Manning, we announced we would focus on supporting Manning’s Welsh based family.
The family had been largely left stranded by the anti-war movement. They had travelled four times to the U.S. to visit their imprisoned & tortured loved one without any financial support.
Along with Genny from WISE Up we announced we would raise money to support the Wales based family in their prison visits. This would be a direct and practical way of supporting Pvt. Manning sentenced to 35 years in a U.S. military prison for exposing U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan & Iraq. This ongoing effort was formalised into a dedicated bank account for donations.
By the end of August, Genny & I travelled to Pembrokeshire to meet Pvt Manning’s mum, aunt & uncles.
In Sept, Oct, Nov 2013, we staged a series of gigs at Giuseppe Conlon House/ London,
and outside World Cup 2013 Rugby League games in Wrexham:
We have raised enough money to finance Pvt. Manning’s aunt & uncle to undertake a visit to Ft. Leavenworth Prison in February. We hope to raise enough money to finance a similar trip by Pvt. Manning’s mother & uncle later in 2014.
GOOD NEWS IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE…
This weekend, Jan 10 & 11th, in Haverfordwest, Wales, the home town of Pvt. Manning’s Welsh family, a troupe of Irish artists, academics & activists are converging to offer their solidarity.
In early February we will bid farewell Pvt. Manning’s aunt and uncle from Giuseppe Conlon House, London as they embark on their Transatlantic journey to undertake the prison visit at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas.
Frank Cordaro & other Catholic Worker friends will gather in Kansas City to welcome Pvt. Manning’s sister, aunt & uncle as they make their way to nearby Ft. Leavenworth.
It is hoped that this will be the beginning of a solidarity hub in Kansas City as the Manning family continue with the “act of mercy” of visiting the imprisoned Pvt. Manning serving a 35 year sentence for exposing U.S. war crimes in the U.S.
Catholic Worker inhabits the prophetic tradition; the work we have conducted over the past 3 years around Julian Assange, Pvt. Manning & their families has not been popular. We have been up against lynch mobs ranging from the U.S. military to the British liberal left & moderate peace movement. It has been an exhausting 3 years accompanying Assange & Manning through their slow motion crucifixions. This, in the context of a 12+ year war that most people, some once active in opposition, have switched off to. A war that continues to rage in Fallujah today & expand across the European drawn up borders of the Middle East.
As Ched Myers reminds us, those who believe in the Good News see a significance missed by the Captains of Consciousness. It is good news that the family of Pvt. Manning now feel accompanied as they travel to support the imprisoned one they know and love. It is good news that we have found something significant to do to express our love, appreciation & solidarity with the imprisoned Pvt. Manning.