Protesters draw Obama’s attention to Bradley Manning — in song

April 21, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Some supporters from this city known for its progressive politics and history of demonstrations didn’t let President Obama leave without giving him a piece of their mind.

And they did it in song.

A group of donors at a small fundraiser held for the president Thursday morning used their time in front of Obama to protest the treatment of Bradley Manning, the Army private accused of giving secret information to WikiLeaks. He is being held in a military prison and some liberal activists and human rights groups believe he is being treated inhumanely.

At a 200-person fundraiser for major donors at the St. Regis Hotel the president was in the middle of his pitch for their support for his 2012 campaign when a woman in a white suit stood up and said, “Mr. President, we wrote you a song.”

Then, a group of people at a table at the small breakfast meeting sang lyrics about Manning, whom they described as being “alone in a cell.”

As they sang, the 10 singers passed around signs that said “Free Bradley Manning.”

Then the woman in the white suit, who did not identify herself, stripped off her jacket to reveal a black T-shirt that read “Free Bradley Manning” and bore his image.

“We paid our dues. Where’s our change?” the group sang.

Eventually, the woman was escorted out of the event and two of the other singers left on their own. (The rest stayed and applauded at the end of POTUS’s speech.)

“That was a nice song,” Obama said, looking displeased. “Now where was I?”

Defense Department officials announced earlier this week Manning will soon be moved from his tiny cell in a prison in Quantico, Va. to a facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Officials said the facility Kansas was simply better-suited for long-term detainees. But it comes amid strong criticism of Manning’s treatment by Amnesty International and even the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Manning was being held alone in a 6-by-12-foot cell for 23 hours a day and forced to hand over his clothes at night and sleep in boxers with no blanket or pillow.

Here’s the full song, which protestors provided to reporters:

Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir

Each of us brought you $5,000

It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign

I paid my dues, where’s our change?

We’ll vote for you in 2012, yes that’s true

Look at the Republicans - what else can we do

Even though we don’t know if we’ll retain our liberties

In what you seem content to call a free society

Yes it’s true that Terry Jones is legally free

To burn a people’s holy book in shameful effigy

But at another location in this country

Alone in a 6x12 cell sits Bradley

23 hours a day is night

The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain’t right

We paid our dues, where’s our change?

Staff Writer Perry Bacon Jr. contributed to this report from Washington

Cecilia Kang is a staff writer covering the business of media and entertainment.
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