By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group East Bay
The Army private accused of giving sensitive wartime documents and a graphic combat video to the web site WikiLeaks.org did not gain hero status in the eyes of the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night.
In a 8-0 vote with one abstention, the council tabled the resolution brought by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, mostly because council members said they were reluctant to proclaim a hero someone who has neither admitted to nor been convicted of leaking the information.
The vote to declare Army Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero came on the same day that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail in London following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing but has refused to voluntarily surrender for extradition to Sweden.
Manning was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material and faces a possible court martial, and he remains in jail.
Back in Berkeley, 10 supporters of the resolution spoke to the council during the public comment period and four spoke against it.
Bob Meola, the 58-year-old Peace and Justice commissioner who authored the resolution, said Berkeley should take a stand on the issue "because whoever did this deserves to be thanked by the American people. Democracy requires transparency. Nobody has pointed to one death because of these leaks. I hope that Berkeley can be a light to the rest of the cities in the country so that Bradley Manning can be released."
Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, however, said the resolution "triggered a discussion and debate in this community and all over the world and that is a very positive step, but to proclaim someone a hero or a traitor, I'm not in a position to make that call."
Councilman Kriss Worthington said the city needs to wait and find out who is the person behind the release of the documents and video "and then give them an award."
"We are being asked to proclaim someone a hero who has not said he did it," Worthington said. "Are we helping him by finding him guilty just because we see it as an outstanding achievement?"
Council member Linda Maio said she refused "to be fodder for a media message that runs out and says 'Berkeley declares this guy a hero.'"
One speaker during the public comment period, Danny Gonzalez of Move America Forward, said he had brought a petition with 4,000 signatures urging Berkeley not to pass the resolution.