Music and activism met in Kutztown during a Free Bradley Manning Call To Action event Saturday.
The Justice Party of PA along with the Lehigh Valley Coffee Party and the Bradley Manning Support Network hosted an Evening Of Activism And Music, featuring local band, Real West.
Although Lehigh Valley Coffee Club did not show, Justice Party Chairperson Alyssa Rohrichtwas pleased with the turnout of about 20 people attending the June 15event for PFC Bradley Manningat the Independent Space in Kutztown.
Manning was arrested in Iraq in May 2010 for suspicion of releasing classified documents to the website WikiLeaks. He is in his third week of trial and is facing a life sentence. He is charged under federal espionage and computer fraud laws, but the most serious being aiding the enemy.
“He released things that he knew that weren’t necessarily national security things. He did look through them; he knew what he was releasing,” said Rohricht. “He knew he saw things that were going on that were awful and that people needed to know about them.”
According to Rohricht, Manning tried to give the information to major newspapers, but was turned down, but once WikiLeaks published the information, then the newspapers published some of the documents as well. Julian Paul Assange, founder and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, has since sought asylum in Ecuador to avoid prosecution in the United States. Prosecutors in Manning’s trial claim that Manning and Assange plotted together to publish U.S. Military and diplomatic material.
“We believe in individual privacy for people, but we believe in an open government because the government can’t be accountable if it’s not open,” said Rohricht. “We wouldn’t advocate that major things going on around the world would be known so it could be ruined before hand, but when our government is doing back-door shady things and there are war-criminals who aren’t being prosecuted and the military and the government know about it—really brutal crimes—and none of these people are being reprimanded for it, how could we have a conversation about it? How can we stop it? How can we change the way we look at warfare if we don’t know anything about it?”
Rohricht feels that every time the U.S. bombs a village or a wedding party, the U.S. creates more terrorists than could possibly have been killed in that one blast. Rohricht’s main goal in helping Manning was trying to get the word out even if they only got just one or two people to care.
“This is what I want to do; this is my life’s goal, my life’s work; human rights and activism I think is really important,” said Rohricht.
“It’s an atrocity; it’s upsetting to watch, to read about,” said Rohricht’s mother, Donna. “I don’t think that everything that’s happened comes down to the fault of one person. I don’t think he leaked any government secrets. It looks to me like he just released the fact that we’re mowing down innocent people and then hiding it.”
Stephen Setman, student at Gettysburg College for philosophy and German studies, became interested in the release on the NSA Surveillance giving credit to Edward Snowden.
“I think that when people are going to be prosecuted for reporting on crimes, that shouldn’t itself be a crime. So if we’re going to put people in jail or try them to be put in jail for a possible life sentence because they’re trying to tell us that somebody else did something wrong, then that basically makes it so nobody wants to tattle on anybody especially when they should,” said Setman. “I think this kind of stuff should be in the public view. The kind of stuff that the public knows is probably only the tip of the iceberg to begin with,” said Setman.
War crime as defined by dictionary.com, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/war+crime: Crimes committed against an enemy, prisoners of war, or subjects in wartime that violate international agreements or, as in the case of genocide, are offenses against humanity.
War crime as defined by Enclyopaedia Britannica, http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/635621/war-crime: The term, war crime, has been difficult to define with precision, and its usage has evolved constantly, particularly since the end of World War I.
“People should know about these things,” said Fauzia Nouristani. “Things that happened were considered war crimes. We just saw the video and it’s mortifying to see that these people who were journalists, I could clearly see that they had no AK47s and no RPGs, they were just standing around a bunch of guys and they just shot them right there. If people didn’t know about these things and those things didn’t get prosecuted then it could go on and it could happen again and again to innocent people. Those people that got shot, they are somebody’s father, somebody’s brother, somebody’s child and I think that’s why Bradley Manning should not be prosecuted because he didn’t do something he benefitted personally from, he didn’t profit from it, he told the truth.”
According to Rohricht, Manning was kept in maximum security solitary confinement for 10 months, denied social interaction, sunlight, and meaningful exercise and at times was forced to stand completely naked.
“This is all illegal under the U.S. military law and amounts to pre-trial punishment,” said Rohricht. “It took over three years for Manning to stand trial.”
Rohricht said that now he’s being tried for the harshest which is aiding the enemy which can carry a life sentence or even death. The releasing of documents to a journalist who released them to the public and since terrorists and enemies of the state can read those documents therefore he released them to the enemy and aided the enemy.
“We’re told death is not on the table, but that doesn’t exactly mean that won’t happen. They could still seek it if they want to,” said Rohricht. “Manning, who is a whistle-blower, a truth-teller, is being prosecuted by the U.S. Government.”
Videos found on You-Tube were played in evidence of the group’s claim of war crimes being committed after which open discussions were held.
Some of the discussions included a government built on secrecy and with no end game in sight, the thought that Manning felt it was worth the risk he took, the creation of terrorists because of our actions, businesses who are profiting, how this war seems never ending and how the laws are in place to uphold the rights of the elite.