Around 20 people were in attendance for a rally held this Wednesday on the Diag by the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) — the youth and student wing of the Socialist Equality Party — in protest of the jailing of Chelsea Manning, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer.
Manning leaked secret military files to WikiLeaks in 2010. The leaks detailed civilian bystander killings in the Iraq war, local corruption and details surrounding the treatment of Guantanamo Bay prisoners, according to a New York Times report.
After having the bulk of her sentence commuted by former President Barack Obama, Manning has been re-jailed for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks.
The rally, which was part of several coordinated rallies around the country on several campuses, took place on the front steps of Hatcher Library and included several student speakers, socialist writers and a national IYSSE representative.
In his speech, Andre Damon, writer for World Socialist Web Site, said this jailing showcases larger implications of the Trump administration’s attitudes towards journalists and whistleblowers.
“The imprisonment of Chelsea Manning is cruel, criminal and totally unjustifiable,” Damon said. “The White House wants to set a precedent for whistleblowers and journalists who publish information critical of the military and state intelligence apparatus.”
According to Genevieve Leigh, National Secretary of the IYSSE, the jailing of Manning is indicative of a broader issue and the impingement of democratic rights in the country.
“The fight to defend Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning is the fight to defend democratic rights,” Leigh said. “It is the fight against war, against inequality, against dictatorship and against the capitalist system itself and for socialism. We are fighting for a world based on a human needs.”
Leigh said the event was important in teaching today’s generation about an issue affecting the American people for years.
“I think it’s incredibly important for a whole new generation of young people,” Leigh said. “Someone who is 18 was not really politically active at the time where this came out and how would they really know who Chelsea Manning is today.”
According to Information junior Sam Wood, president of the University’s chapter of the IYSSE, students’ lack of knowledge of the Chelsea Manning issue reflects the changing political climate of college campuses.
“I think this was really significant to have this rally on this campus in particular,” Wood said. “I think the fact that so many people were not aware of who Chelsea Manning is, I think it signifies really where the political culture is going on college campuses. Today there’s really no one raising the issue of war. Figures like Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, they’re really critical figures and bringing to light the atrocities of U.S. imperialism to young people.”
Citing the Manning issue as an oppressive case in the U.S., LSA sophomore Sonny Newman told The Daily that further involvement and student participation is necessary to address these problems.
“The turnout we did have was well-educated and found this cause very important to be standing out here in the rain,” Newman said. “That’s the type of people we need, but we’re going to need everyone to do that. We need all the workers, everyone whos being oppressed by the U.S. government, which is basically everyone. We’re going to need everyone to join together to fight not just for themselves but for others too.”
According to the event organizers, there will be a follow-up meeting to discuss the Manning issue in the Michigan League on Thursday at 7 p.m.