La Riva: Solidarity with Chelsea Manning

Chelsea Manning

The Party for Socialism and Liberation and the Gloria La Riva for President campaign extends our full solidarity and support to Chelsea Manning as she victoriously enters a new phase of her life and continues her struggle against the abuse she and other political prisoners and trans prisoners face. 

On the morning of Friday, September 9, anti-war whistleblower and political prisoner Chelsea Elizabeth Manning who is serving an outrageous 35-year sentence in U.S. military prison for exposing U.S. war crimes, stated that she would not voluntarily consume any food or drink except water and prescription medication, to protest repeated abuse.

After four days, Manning ended her hunger strike as the U.S. Army has agreed to provide gender affirmation surgery. We salute Manning’s courageous stance and demand that the Army not delay this necessary medical procedure

Chelsea Manning, known as Bradley Manning until Aug. 22, 2013, was convicted and sentenced to a 35-year sentence for exposing, with the help of Wikileaks, war crimes perpetrated by the U.S. military, including torture, murder of journalists and civilians and the role of US corporate interests and spying in international diplomacy.

The treatment Manning has received both before and after being sentenced for her heroic act and after coming out as a trans woman has been outrageous. Manning has been charged with committing ridiculous “infractions” during her imprisonment in attempts to increase the length and severity of her sentence, ranging from finding her guilty of possessing an expired tube of toothpaste sold to her by the prison, to “disrespecting a guard” for asking to speak to her attorney. She was accused of having “unauthorized reading material” for possessing magazines discussing LGBTQ rights developments and Malala Yousafzai’s memoir, all of which were delivered to her with the prison’s permission.

Manning has also been given long arbitrary stints in solitary confinement and denied access to gender affirming treatment. In early July, this treatment led her to attempt to end her own life. She faced further charges and a threat of indefinite solitary confinement as a response to her suicide attempt. 

When a record number of prisoners started a strike around the country on Sept. 9, Chelsea Manning announced her hunger strike. In her statement she said:

chelsea_pride_sf.jpgA Pride contingent to free Chelsea Manning

“I need help. I am not getting any. I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations. My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lipservice by the prison, the military and this administration. I need help. I needed help earlier this year. I was driven to suicide by the lack of care for my gender dysphoria that I have been desperate for. I didn’t get any. I still haven’t gotten any. I needed help. Yet, instead I am now being punished for surviving my attempt. When I was a child, my father would beat me repeatedly for simply not being masculine enough. I was told to stop crying -- to ‘suck it up.’

“But, I couldn’t stop crying. The pain just got worse and worse. Until finally, I just couldn’t take the pain anymore. I needed help, but no one came then. No one is coming now.

“Today, I have decided that I am no longer going to be bullied by this prison -- or by anyone within the US government. I have asked for nothing but the dignity and respect -- that I once actually believed would be provided for -- afforded to any living human being.

“I do not believe that this should be dependent on any arbitrary factors -- whether you are cisgender or transgender; service member or civilian, citizen or non-citizen. In response to virtually every request, I have been granted limited, if any, dignity and respect -- just more pain and anguish.

“I am no longer asking. Now, I am demanding. As of 12:01 am Central Daylight Time on September 9, 2016, and until I am given minimum standards of dignity, respect and humanity, I shall -- refuse to voluntarily cut or shorten my hair in any way; consume any food or drink voluntarily, except for water and currently prescribed medications; and comply with all rules, regulations, laws and orders that are not related to the two things I have mentioned.

“This is a peaceful act. I intend to keep it as peaceful and non-violent, on my end, as possible. Any physical harm that should come to me at the hands of military or civilian staff will be unnecessary and vindictive. I will not physically resist or in any way harm another person. I have also submitted a “do not resuscitate” letter that is effective immediately. This shall include any attempts to forcibly cut or shorten my hair or to forcibly feed me by any medical or pseudomedical means.

“Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me. I am prepared for this mentally and emotionally. I expect that this ordeal will last for a long time. Quite possibly until my permanent incapacitation or death. I am ready for this.

“I need help. Please, give me help.”

Manning’s struggle mirrors that of thousands around the country. Approximately 21 percent of all trans women in the U.S. have been incarcerated. At least half of all trans people have been sexually assaulted while incarcerated. It is a well-known fact that trans people receive some of the worst treatment in the  “justice” system, and political prisoners experience this to the greatest extent.

Chelsea Manning is a hero to working people around the country and internationally for unveiling the crimes of the empire and for risking her life in the struggle for political prisoners and trans prisoners. We demand her immediate release and for her to be repaid for the abuses she has faced while imprisoned. Exposing war crimes and abuse is an act of heroism, not a crime.

We need a new system where today’s political prisoners are freed and honored for their role in the fight for working people’s liberation. We need a new system where trans people are honored and given all the resources they need and deserve. We need a new system where those who imprison and torture justice fighters are punished. This is a time of struggle all over the country, a time when justice fighters take their struggle to new levels, and together we can win.

Chelsea Manning always needs and appreciates letters of love and support from activists and community members. It is especially crucial to show her our support now. See instructions on sending Chelsea letters here. (link to https://www.chelseamanning.org/learn-more/write-to-chelsea-manning)