Supporters, including REM’s Michael Stipe and Daniel Ellsberg, launch new campaign at FreeChelsea.com demanding U.S. government drop charges stemming from suicide attempt
LEAVENWORTH, KS––Chelsea Manning has ended a hunger strike that she began five days ago, after the U.S. military has agreed to move forward with the recommended treatment for her gender dysphoria. However, the Army is continuing to threaten Chelsea with solitary confinement for charges directly related to her attempt to take her own life, even though it was the government’s own mistreatment of Chelsea that drove her to it.
Supporters have launched a new effort at FreeChelsea.com calling for the charges to be dropped. The site features a petition to the Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning as well as videos uploaded by supporters including Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg.
Chelsea alerted attorneys and supporters that she was ending the hunger strike after government officials showed her a memo stating that she will receive gender-reassignment surgery, under the DOD’s new policy affecting transgender service members. If this occurs, Manning will be the first transgender prisoner in the U.S. to receive this medically recommended treatment, setting a precedent that could benefit thousands of transgender prisoner.
“I am unendingly relieved that the military is finally doing the right thing. I applaud them for that. This is all that I wanted – for them to let me be me,” said Chelsea Manning in a statement to her attorneys. “But it is hard not to wonder why it has taken so long. Also, why were such drastic measures needed? The surgery was recommended back in April 2016. The recommendations for my hair length were back in 2014. In any case, I hope this sets a precedent for the thousands of trans people behind me hoping they will be given the treatment they need.”
“It is a relief to hear that the government has finally agreed to move forward with providing Chelsea with the health care that she is legally entitled to and is medically needed. We hope that they will act to provide this care without delay in order to ensure that her suffering does not continue,” said Chase Strangio, Chelsea’s attorney at the ACLU, “This medical care is absolutely vital for Chelsea. It was the government’s refusal to provide her with the necessary care that led her to attempt suicide earlier this year, and it was all the more troubling when she became subject to an investigation and possible punishment in connection with the suicide attempt. We hope that the government recognizes that charging Chelsea with the crime of being denied essential health care is outrageous and drops those charges.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people spoke out in support of Chelsea, and now the government is finally agreeing to provide her with the healthcare treatment that she needs,” said Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, the digital rights group behind FreeChelsea.com that has supported Chelsea over the last year, “but now that the Army is acknowledging Chelsea deserves this treatment, it’s even more outrageous that they’re still threatening her with solitary confinement for charges related to her own suicide attempt. It was the government’s refusal to grant Chelsea access to needed health care that led to her suicide attempt in the first place.”
Chelsea’s supporters plan to release more videos to raise awareness about the new petition at FreeChelsea.com in the coming days.