On the day news broke of the conviction of U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning for downloading secret government documents and giving them to Wikileaks for release to the public, Jason Urbanski held a one-man rally for Manning’s freedom in front of the county courthouse in La Porte, Indiana. His handpainted sign with red-glitter letters said ‘FREE BRADLEY MANNING.”
I happened upon Urbanski while I touring around the area. I took the opportunity to talk with him a bit.
Urbanski spoke of Manning in heroic terms. “He sacrificed his freedom to show the world the truth,” Urbanski said. “He made a really unselfish decision to do something good. We can’t forget about him.”
A restaurant worker in nearby New Buffalo, Michigan, Urbanski said he was hoping that a future president, if not the current one, would pardon Manning. The way to pursue that, Urbanski reasoned, was to start at a grassroots level.
Manning was convicted by a court martial on several counts, including espionage. Manning was acquitted, however, of aiding the enemy, which was the most serious charge pursued by prosecutors.
“I think that what Bradley Manning did was just motivated by simple human empathy,” Urbanski said. “It was a political act, but really it was an act of human compassion.”
While I was there, Urbanski’s protest seemed to draw neither cheers nor jeers from passers-by. I think it is safe to say his opinions represent a minority view in the United States. I, myself, don’t see Manning in the same light that Urbanski does, but I am, however, very happy to see someone out flexing their First Amendment rights on a courthouse street-corner to weigh in on the topic.