The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Donnelly’s Civics Classes Craft Bradley Manning Petition

In the past month, Civics classes have worked to cultivate change in American society through active protest. Students in Civics teacher Seth Donnelly’s second and third period classes have sculpted a petition and letter to Obama protesting the prosecution of Bradley Manning, a proclaimed war criminal who will stand trial in June.

Private Bradley Manning served in the US military from 2007 to 2010, running numbers as an intelligence analyst for three years. After discovering documents containing evidence of what he deemed to be abuses of military power, Manning tried to alert his superiors of the abuses. When his superior officers refused to act, Manning contacted the New York Times and the Washington Post, neither of whom published Manning’s controversial documents.

In the end, Manning published the documents through WikiLeaks, and was immediately arrested on charges that included “aiding the enemy.” Charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, Manning’s offense could amount to life imprisonment. Manning stands trial this June, three years after his initial arrest.

Proponents for the upcoming trial see Manning as a threat to American society. Many fear that releasing Manning would create legal precedent allowing the leaking of other military secrets. However, the student petitioners disagree.

Story continues below advertisement

“Part of what we do in Civics is look at current events and major political issues of the day, and the upcoming trial of Bradley Manning is a major current event, not just in our own country but internationally,” Donnelly said.

After researching the details and context of Manning’s trial, Civics classes decided to take action to protect Manning, who the students see as a hero, not a criminal. The classes aim to contact the Obama administration and help sway the administration to halt the prosecution of Manning.

“The basic message of the petition is asking the Obama administration to stop the persecution of Bradley Manning for releasing information that the public needs to know about what the US is doing in Afghanistan, Iraq or other parts of the world, including Haiti,” Donnelly said. “The petitions are calling on the Obama administration to prosecute the real war criminals in this situation: the officials from the previous administration and the current administration for carrying a clear violation of the Nuremburg principles.”

Many in the classes find the conditions under which Bradley have been held to be alarming. During the three years that Bradley has spent imprisoned without a trial, he has been held in solitary confinement in a six by twelve foot windowless cell, sometimes without access to basic needs. According to the Huffington Post, they took away his eyeglasses, effectively rendering him blind for large amounts of time every day.

“He’s been in for over three years without a trial, and much of that was in conditions that a United Nations expert on torture said bordered on torture,” Donnelly said.

The petition, written by seniors Shelby Pefley and Samantha Kim, addresses the Civics classes’ concerns of Manning’s treatment. This was an entirely student-based initiative, as students wrote the petition and are working to get signatures. With the intention that the letter will reach Obama, the petition outlines the hypocrisy of the Obama administration in prosecuting Bradley Manning.

The petition stated that since Obama taught constitutional law, he should understand the implications of holding Manning. Manning was informing the public rather than “aiding the enemy.” The students believe Manning should not be under such severe conditions. The petition asks for the release of Manning.

After students in the Civics class get their petitions signed, the goal is to deliver the petition to Congresswoman Anna Eschoo’s office in downtown Palo Alto. They hope Eschoo can forward the letter to Obama, and Obama can pardon Manning.

This effort, however, is not slated toward one political party. The class believes the petition is entirely non-partisan—an act of a concerned students.

“It has nothing to do with being a Democrat or Republican,” Donnelly said. “It has to do with concern for human rights,  democracy and social justice. We are petitioning the current president—and it doesn’t matter whether he is a Democrat or a Republican—but we are asking him to stop prosecuting a man who we feel had the courage to reveal to our public things that we need to know, such as US war crimes in Iraq.”

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Talon Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *