Obama faces singing protest over WikiLeaks
San Francisco: US President Barack Obama on Thursday faced an unusual singing protest over the detention of Bradley Manning, a US soldier held for allegedly passing classified documents to WikiLeaks.
In San Francisco on a campaign-style swing, Obama was headlining a fundraising breakfast where tickets cost USD 35,800 when a woman in a white suit rose to interrupt him, saying she and her friends had written him a song.
The woman, who stripped off her jacket to reveal a black t-shirt that said "Free Bradley Manning”, and others at a table for 10 then sang a song that noted they had just contributed to Obama`s 2012 re-election bid and went on to criticise his detention.
"Dear Mr President we honour you today sir / Each of us brought you USD 5,000 / It takes a lot of Benjamins to run a campaign / I paid my dues, where`s our change?" the song began.
"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," it continued.
The song described Bradley Manning as "alone in a 6 by 12 cell" for "23 hours a day" and ended with "this kind of thing ain`t right / We paid our dues, where`s our change?"
The protesters also handed out small signs that read "Free Bradley Manning" or bore his picture.
"That was a nice song," Obama, evidently displeased, told the roomful of about 200 donors at the upscale Saint Regis Hotel.
The woman was escorted out, two others at her table left, but others stayed and applauded Obama`s speech when he finished it.
Manning was transferred on Wednesday from a military prison at Quantico, Virginia, to another in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, according to the Pentagon.
The 23-year-old Welsh-born US army intelligence officer, who allegedly provided the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks with a trove of secret military and diplomatic documents, has been imprisoned at Quantico since July 2010.
Manning`s detention conditions, which have included solitary confinement and being forced to sleep naked, have drawn the attention of Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union and the British government.
The White House played down the incident, with spokesman Jay Carney saying the singing "broke his flow a little bit" but that he "thought it was kind of funny" and quipped "you don`t get that every day" as he left the room.
"It certainly perked up the morning," Carney told reporters.
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