An Oakland woman and her cohorts shelled out $76,000 to get themselves into President Barack Obama's fundraising breakfast Thursday morning in San Francisco, just to disrupt it with a protest song in support of WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning.
"It was really worth the money, it really was," Naomi Pitcairn, 51, said later Thursday, adding that before the breakfast she "was up in the 'important people room' and "... I asked (Gov.) Jerry Brown about Bradley Manning, and he didn't know who that is. Hopefully he will now."
So might the rest of the 200 people at the breakfast, where Pitcairn and her cohorts interrupted the president about five minutes into his speech with an a cappella rendition of their self-composed protest song. Pitcairn took off her outer shirt to reveal a T-shirt in support of Manning.
"All right, guys. That was a nice song. You guys have much better voices than I have. OK, thank you very much, guys," the president said when the protesters had finished singing, later adding, "Now, there's an example of creativity that we saw during the campaign. You know, it wasn't always convenient but it's part of what made 2008 special."
The protesters were escorted out of the St. Regis Hotel; none was cited or arrested.
"He's a classy dude, he's a charismatic guy," Pitcairn later said of the president. "We're all going to vote for him. It's even in the song: 'We'll vote for you in 2012, yes that's true, look at the Republicans, what else can we do?' "
Manning is a U.S. Army private suspected of having passed restricted material to the website WikiLeaks, which publishes classified documents leaked from anonymous sources. Manning's solitary confinement since May on the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va., has been decried by human rights activists as cruel and unusual punishment. The Associated Press reported this week that Manning will be moved to a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., to await trial under somewhat less severe conditions.
Among the material Manning is suspected of leaking was previously unreleased video footage from a U.S. Apache helicopter that killed several people including two Reuters news staff members in a Baghdad suburb in 2007.
"Manning didn't release any tactical things, anything that was going to get anybody killed, like Karl Rove might think of doing," Pitcairn said, citing the Bush White House aide suspected of having helped publicize the identity of a CIA agent married to a political foe. "Basically I tried to donate to his cause because I could see myself getting in trouble for something like that, telling on bad people."
A reporter at the breakfast reported that besides Pitcairn, the "Fresh Juice Party" protesters included UC Santa Cruz art professor Elizabeth Stephens; songwriter Craig Casey; activist Jane Sullivan, of Santa Cruz; writer Greg Archer; and David Schiller, of Berkeley. Pitcairn said she was happy to buy tickets to the event for all of them so they could personally address the president with their concerns.
Pitcairn said she and her boyfriend paid equal amounts while another activist kicked in $5,000 toward the six protesters' tickets. "None of us could really afford it," she said. Though she alluded to having come from an affluent family, Pitcairn -- a photographer whose website describes her as "an artist who might welcome the adjectives 'morbid' and 'cynical' " -- said "I would love for people to love each other, and not money so much."
Here are the lyrics to the original protest song performed by the "Fresh Juice Party" at President Barack Obama's fundraising breakfast:
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 6-by-12 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?