Sunday, June 29th was a warm sunny day which is never to be taken for granted in San Francisco, a perfect day for the annual Pride Parade. I got there at about 11 a.m. and made my way up Spear Street to the staging area of our unit, there to march in honor of our heroic WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
There were about 200 of us assembled for the Chelsea Manning contingent, including people from Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans, and other groups and individuals. Daniel Ellsberg was also there.
One person, Henry Johnson, whom I’d known from the Lake Merritt peace walk, grinned and asked me, “Could you have imagined, back when you were in the Marine Corps, that you would someday be marching in a parade to celebrate Gay Pride, and in support of a gay soldier?”
“No way could I have ever pictured such a thing,” I had to say. “That was a totally different world, 50 years ago now.”
The parade route itself was a march up Market Street, only about a mile, but it took over an hour to cover the distance. All along, the sidewalks were packed with thousands and thousands of spectators, a huge crowd, many of them cheering us. Others asked us who Chelsea Manning was. The corporate media does such a poor job of reporting the stories behind the stories that here was a poor soldier, arrested, tortured and given a prison sentence of 35 years for blowing the whistle on the military, and yet many Americans don’t know who Manning is. Along with Edward Snowden, Manning is a contemporary hero, following in the footsteps of Daniel Ellsberg.
“Free! free! Chelsea Manning!” we chanted, and, “Chelsea Manning speaks for us!” We carried banners and signs with pictures of the soldier.
The route ended near the Civic Center. After the parade I went to look at the continuing festivities which went on all afternoon and presumably well into the evening, and here I got an even better idea of the size of the event. For block after block in all directions, the city was flooded with people, packed solid with hundreds of thousands of people, by some estimates a million or more. And it wasn’t just Gays or LGBT people, it was everybody. Both straight and gay.
The sheer size of it was a statement in itself, so different from the homophobic world of the 1950s that I grew up in. I could never have imagined such a thing back when I was a 20-year-old GI, and certainly not with me in it.