On April 21, 2011, a group called the Fresh Juice Party political action staged an “interrupt/interaction/performance art happening" during a Presidential fund-raising dinner in San Francisco. A table of 10 people attending the $5,000-a-ticket fund-raiser surprised the other attendees when they suddenly stood up and broke into a song in the middle of the president's remarks. Unlike the Bush Era, no shoes were thrown and no one was wrestled to the ground and beaten during this Presidential Protest. President Obama politely stopped his speech to listen, the protesters were allowed to finish their song, and no one was arrested. (But maybe this is the kind of special treatment that comes with spending $50,000 to sit at one of these fund-raising tables.)
The Fresh Juice disrupters hoped to call attention to incarcerated whistleblower Pvt. Manning. The polite protest took place on the same day Manning was transferred to Leavenworth where he will remain in solitary confinement, 23 hours a day while awaiting trial for leaking -- among other things -- video evidence of US war crimes in Iraq. Here are the lyrics to the protest ditty that interrupted the president’s event.
Dear Mr. President, we honor you today, sir
All of us have given you our tax dollars
It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign
I paid my dues, where's my 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
Nobel Peace Prize/ Whistle blowers
Juan Mendez/ Due Process
Crimson Tide/ Laurence Tribe
8th Amendment/ Cruel and Unusual
5th Amendment/ Punishment before a trial
Terry Jones/ Burnin' that Quran
Promise of transparency/ Dennis Kucinich
We paid our dues, where's our change?
We paid our dues, where's our change?
Video: The President Debates the Issue
After the disruption, the president paused to debate the issue with several members of the audience. Here is a transcript of the conversation, which was captured on a cellphone.
Pres Obama: We're a nation of laws, we don't individually make our own decisions about how the laws operate.
Pres speaking about Price: No no, he's doing fine,he's doing fine, he's being heard -- he's asking a question.
Back to Price: He [Manning] broke the law. Well --
Price: He was telling the truth.
Pres Obama: Well, what he did was he dumped. Well, what he did was he dumped. No, it wasn't the same thing. Ellsberg's release wasn't classified in the same way. So... anyway. Alright.
President Obama: so [...] people can have philosophical views about, eh, sort of... [...] no,no, but look: I can't do diplomacy on an open source. That's not how [the] world works. And if you're a -- if you're in the military, and -- I have to abide by certain classified information, and if I release stuff that I'm not authorized to release, I'm breaking the law.
"Vbanti2," the online commentator who provided the transcription, also provided the following response to Obama's logic: "Perhaps [Manning] did break the law. But does that justify his being tortured? Does that justify his being denied due process? And how can you claim that Ellsberg's whistle blowing was fundamentally different? What legal distinction are you making? Why not produce a short video address to America's citizens, explaining this? Wouldn't that be a good way to address our reasonable concerns that Manning's whole case has been bungled?"