Here's what we do know about the singing protesters who disrupted President Obama at a San Francisco fundraiser Thursday: They're pretty decent lyricists (although their voices leave something to be desired). They're unhappy with the U.S. treatment of Private Bradley Manning, the soldier who allegedly leaked U.S. classified documents to the WikiLeaks website. And, they're really ballsy.
But other than that? No one knows quite what to think about them -- even the President!
Obama's reaction to the singers ranged from "bemused" to "displeased" depending on which media outlet you read. In fact, it's very possible that the President experienced a whole variety of feelings given that the protesters' message was so very confusing:
What's clear is that they were criticizing the treatment of Private Manning. Manning's lawyers have complained that he was being mistreated at a marine corps base in Quantico, Virginia, where they allege he was kept alone in his cell 23 hours a day and forced to sleep naked. Human rights advocates have called this treatment "abusive." Manning has since been moved to Fort Leavenworth; nevertheless, the protesters were calling for his release.
But what's confusing is the extent to which Manning's supporters are willing to go to get their demands met. In other words, yes, they're very publicly criticizing Obama, but ultimately they don't seem that unhappy with him. As you can see from the song lyrics below, they're still going to vote for Obama in 2012. And, the woman who led the protest, Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn, said she paid $76,000 for the group at her table to attend the breakfast event (many of whom stayed after to applaud the President's speech). That's a whole lot of money to give to someone who you're not too happy with, wouldn't you agree?
It's true the protestors' message about Manning has now gone viral -- in which case, their serenade could be considered a success. But their unwavering support for Obama is a head-scratching conundrum for sure:
Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir/ Each of us brought you $5,000 / It takes a lot of Benjamin’s to run a campaign/ I paid my dues, where’s our 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 6×12 cell sits Bradley/23 hours a day and night/The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing isn’t right/We paid our dues, where’s our change?