Chelsea Manning was released on May 17 from a military prison after serving seven years of her 35-year sentence. Former President Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence in January due to unending pressure for her freedom from activists around the world.
A former U.S. Marine intelligence analyst, Manning turned over several hundred thousand files to WikiLeaks, a well-known whistleblower website. She was sentenced in 2010, her actions condemned by the ever-profit-greedy, power-hungry U.S. empire intent on hiding their war crimes she sought to expose.
A day after Manning was sentenced, she came out publicly as a transgender woman. For the past seven years she has been held in a federal men’s prison.
Manning’s release is a huge victory for the movement, for LGBTQ people and for all political prisoners who have taken a stand against U.S. imperialism. Her release comes at a time when political developments within the U.S. indicate that the ruling class is vying for yet another war — while the anti-war movement fights to make a comeback to oppose U.S. intervention and militarism in Syria and Venezuela, among several other countries the U.S. preys on.
Manning’s freedom should serve as a torch to keep our movement’s fire going.
In celebration of this victory, we continue to raise the banner for freedom for all political prisoners, including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Ky Peterson — a black transgender man sentenced to 20 years in prison for defending himself against sexual assault. And we say Freedom! for the countless Black and Brown LGBTQ people forced into prison systems that are concentration camps for the poor.
The U.S. empire has constructed its prison system to suppress workers and oppressed people who dare blow the whistle on the heinous crimes of this system, who dare to resist by leaking military intelligence or by fighting back against the police. The system that held Manning in a male prison to delegitimize her gender identity is not simply a system lacking moral conscience or compassion. It is a very calculated system attempting to legitimize its attacks on workers and oppressed people by further alienating sectors of the working class from each other.
The movement refused to play into the military’s divide-and-conquer strategies vis-à-vis transphobia. Instead, the movement fought to free Manning and stayed strong for years to ensure her safety, well-being and the ultimate release of this people’s hero.
Now as we celebrate Manning’s freedom, we remember the legacy of transgender revolutionary fighters such as Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Leslie Feinberg, who showed us that the struggle for transgender liberation is inseparable from the struggle against capitalism and white supremacy; that no world is safe for transgender people so long as the U.S. empire is able to wage war, exploit workers and displace the oppressed; that there is no true vanguard of the working class without the leadership, bravery and determination of transgender people.