A Monument for Chelsea Manning

Update on Chelsea Manning by Maxine Walker

Until October this year, a bronze head and shoulders of Chelsea Manning by artist John Reardon is on temporary loan to Conway Hall (Red Lion Square, London WC1) and can be found in The Library. (The Library is open on Tues, Weds and Thurs between 10.00 and 17.00).

John Reardon calls his project ‘Monument for Chelsea Manning’ as it is also about the ongoing attempt to install this piece of public art in the town of Haverfordwest, Wales where Chelsea spent part of her childhood. He has said: “Rather than celebrating those who have already been rewarded with rank, celebrity or wealth, I want to focus on an individual of extraordinary courage, but who does not sit comfortably within the canon of the powerful and respected.”

Chelsea Manning should be respected and celebrated as a symbol of resistance. She has said: ‘I can either go to jail or betray my principles. The latter exists as a much worse prison than the government can construct.” She has paid a heavy price indeed for consistently acting on her principles. She was arrested in 2010 for leaking the “Collateral Murder” video, 91,000 reports on the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and 400,000 on the Iraq War, 800 Guantanamo Bay documents and 250,000 secret US State Department cables. Published by WikiLeaks, these revealed systematic war crimes, torture and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as covert support for wars, coups and dictatorial regimes elsewhere.

After her arrest in 2010 Chelsea was held in military detention. The UN condemned her conditions of solitary confinement as ‘cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment’ – essentially torture. In 2013 she was sentenced to 35 years but her sentence was commuted and was released in 2017. On her release she said prophetically that the “rise of the police state, authoritarianism and extreme right wing views” had intensified since she was sentenced in 2013. She was right. She is now back in prison in the USA having been held for almost five months for refusing to testify to the Grand Jury against Julian Assange. Her health is deteriorating and she is also being subjected to extortionate fines, now $1,000 a day As a result, Manning has lost her apartment and could face more than $440,000 in fines if the grand jury sits until its term expires in October 2020.

Chelsea Manning’s resistance continues. On 30 June this year she sent a statement from prison to those celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising:
‘The first pride was a riot. But we will not allow that historic struggle to simply become a catchphrase on designer T-shirts. We are here today because we know that no matter how much they claim otherwise, the forces of capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy have always — and will always — work against queer and trans justice. We are here because we know that rainbow-branded storefronts are not signs of acceptance, but of oppression with better marketing. We are here because we know there should be no pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.’

For news of Chelsea Manning and guidance on how to write to her: https://xychelsea.is/

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