Manning Not a Hero in Berkeley—Yet: Council Tables Wikileaks Resolution

The Berkeley City Council voted last night on its controversial resolution to proclaim Bradley Manning a hero — and took the cowards’ way out by not making a decision at all. After a firestorm of international media attention and hours of debate, the Council eventually voted to “table” the motion honoring Bradley Manning, which basically means that they put it on hold for possible consideration at a later date — if ever.

But that doesn’t mean the councilmembers are against the idea of honoring the person who released the classified government documents to Wikileaks. Far from it. In fact, almost all the councilmembers declared their enthusiastic support for the “whistleblower” who stole and released the documents, but there was one hitch: We still don’t know who that person is. Sure, Manning is suspected of being the culprit/hero, but he hasn’t been convicted yet, and for all we know, it could have been someone else, or Manning could have been a minor player in a larger effort, so the city should not honor Manning individually — yet. When and if he confesses, or is conclusively convicted of stealing the documents, then would be the time to honor him as a hero.

Some of the Berkeley City Councilmembers prior to the vote, on December 14, 2010

You can watch a streaming video of the hours-long debate and vote on this page; make sure to choose “Support and Free Pfc. Bradley Manning and proclaim Him a Hero” from the “Jump to…” drop-down menu. (Otherwise, you’ll have to sit through an hour of unrelated Zoning Adjustment Board arguments.)

As you can see in the video, many Berkeley residents got up to speak their minds about the Manning vote, and opinion was divided; some urged the council to vote “Yes” on the resolution, while a few called for a “No” vote — but the majority opinion seemed to be, “Why are you wasting our time with these ridiculous political resolutions? Get on with the business of running the city!”

Audience members streaming into the council chamber in preparation for the controversial Bradley Manning vote.

The councilmembers are no fools — they realized that a “Yes” vote would embarrass the city in front of the whole nation. But a “No” vote would undermine their leftist credentials, and enrage most of the city’s political activists. So they ducked the issue entirely, but only after reassuring everyone present of their anti-American bona fides. (Watch the video linked above to see each councilmember’s statement, if you’re curious about which one said what.)

The evening wasn’t a complete washout, however; this being Berkeley, a madman showed up and got into a confrontation with police outside the council chamber:

The man had been yelling something incoherent in the small foyer, so a policemen put his hand on the guy’s arm and told him to calm down. In response, the protester erupted into a tirade:

Protester (yelling at policeman): What you’re doing is WRONG! No — it’s NOT okay! Say you’re sorry! For grabbing me. Why are you grabbing me? You have no right to pull on my sweatshirt. You don’t have that right. There’s all this media here, you assholes. You’re not gonna stop the anti-war protest. Don’t touch me! You’re a pervert and a sicko. Why are there so many cops here, anyway?
Bystander: Because there are people like you here, fucker.

Only in Berkeley are you allowed to verbally abuse the cops like this without repercussions. Throughout the entire incident, the policeman is on the defensive, and eventually is forced to retreat to another part of the room and allow the madman to emerge victorious from the minor confrontation. Why? Because Berkeley is full of “cop watch”-type organizations whose very goal is to goad police officers into over-reactions by insulting and threatening them; any attempt by the cops to then detain or arrest the aggressors is turned into a media firestorm about “police brutality.” So the cops have learned to cringe and flee when confronted by these professional provocateurs, who (as a result) succeed in their goal of preventing the police from being effective.

Some people were expecting a showdown with counter-protesters from the conservative group Move America Forward, but there were no fireworks; instead, MAF spokesman Danny Gonzalez (seen here) showed up carrying several thousand signatures (visible at the lower right of the photo) from an online petition urging Berkeley to not honor Manning, and then he gave some media interviews — and that’s it. No fistfights, no duelling protests.

Local TV station KTVU was also on hand and produced a pretty decent TV report on the evening, which you can view here. The text version of the report is here:

The Berkeley City Council tabled a controversial resolution Tuesday night that would have declared the U.S. soldier accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks a hero deserving of a medal.

The city council debated the resolution for several hours before putting off a vote on the resolution to honor Army Private First Class Bradley Manning – the person allegedly behind the release of secret documents to the website WikiLeaks.

“It was an amazing service he provided to our country so we can make informed decisions about war and how it affects our troops around the world,” argued Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission Chair Wendy Kenin.

Some in the audience held signs and wore buttons supporting the army private. But others said Berkeley was once again going too far outside its jurisdiction by wading into this debate.

“I think it’s a drain on Berkeley’s resources,” said Berkeley Peace & Justice Commission member Thyme S. Siegel. “They have a fiscal crisis to deal with. Hello!”

Move America Forward activist Danny Gonzalez brought a box filled with petitions. He said 4,500 people across the country filled them out as part of an internet campaign calling Private Manning a traitor.

“What he did was put our troops in danger and gave a morale boost to the enemy,” said Gonzalez.

As a side note, they interviewed an unexpected guest at the council meeting — Berkeley resident Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Clinton, and still-active economic advisor to the White House. By coincidence, I literally bumped into Reich on the stairs, and took this blurry photo of his retreating form:

If you’re curious to read the entire proposed resolution in full, here’s the PDF of the complete text, plus all supporting documentation:

Support and Free PFC. Bradley Manning and Proclaim Him a Hero

(As you will see, the resolution’s “supporting documentation” consists primarily of reprints from various far-left and socialist Web sites and magazine articles.)

And so another absurd Berkeley political ploy fades into irrelevance.