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Seven years after her arrest by the U.S. Army, American whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been let free from prison. And the internet is flooded with reaction to the news.
When the Army officially confirmed that Manning was no longer detained on Wednesday morning, supporters turned to social media to express both praise and relief, as some feared that the Trump administration would attempt to subvert her release.
Chelsea Manning is finally free. Please wish her all the best and the peaceful life she deserves now. The US govt is a monster.— Xeno Queen Francine (@Personfaces) May 17, 2017
CONFIRMED Chelsea Manning has been released from military custody. She is a FREE WOMAN @xychelsea— Ed Pilkington (@Edpilkington) May 17, 2017
It is incredible to witness Chelsea Manning's freedom after having seen and worked with her behind bars for four years." -@chasestrangio— ACLU National (@ACLU) May 17, 2017
Manning herself officially confirm her release in an Instagram photo that shows her walking along a wooden floor in Chucks, calling them her “first steps of freedom.” A common look among trans women (and also an inside joke about how popular Converse are in the community), Manning was quickly shrouded with support from queer and trans activists on Twitter for both her bravery, as well as her taste in shoes.
@xychelsea official trans girl look in tact!!!!! love you!!! welcome back!!!!— Robyn Kanner (@robynkanner) May 17, 2017
@xychelsea serving Queercore realness— Militia Etheridge (@MaryEmilyOHara) May 17, 2017
But while Manning’s release is a celebration for many, others are still angry over her treatment at the hands of the U.S. government. Manning served seven years of a 35-year sentence for leaking military documents that showed, among other things, American soldiers opening fire on a dozen people in an Iraqi suburb, killing two journalists and wounding children. Many politicians and figures that worked to keep Manning behind bars are still in power—and activists are upset and want justice.
Remembering all of the intensely partisan Democrats who took joy in Chelsea Manning's punishment or mocked those outraged by it— Jonathan Cohn (@JonathanCohn) May 17, 2017
obama years taught me a lot, including that many "liberals" would mock someone being tortured in prison https://t.co/BxDoaY6Vzd— Atrios (@Atrios) May 17, 2017
FYI: The snitch who helped put Chelsea Manning in prison is on Twitter and part of the "resistance." @6— L. (@leslieleeiii) May 17, 2017
Meanwhile, many conservatives see Manning as a traitor, bemoaning her release and criticizing Obama for commuting her sentence. Trump supporters, in particular, believe she should remain in prison.
So the traitor Chelsea Manning a real threat/traitor to our country has been released 28 yrs ahead of schedule great job #ThanksObama— OHIO4TRUMP (@Mjhall412) May 17, 2017
Another horrible dec made by worse Pres US History Barry Insane Obama allowin Chelsea Manning the criminal traitor to America out Prison— Wayne J (@WayneJ28791698) May 17, 2017
The fact that Obama decided to pardon Chelsea Manning doesn't make her any less of a traitor. She's a disgrace to her country.— Yosef Stein (@realyosefstein) May 17, 2017
Responses have also turned transphobic. In many cases, conservative users are referring to Manning by her dead name, or birth name, which is sometimes done by mistake, but since the media refers to Manning as Chelsea, the intent here is to be offensive. Others are calling her a “tranny,” a throwback slur meant to degrade and dismiss transgender people.
BRADLEY MANNING IS A DUDE WHO USED THE LGBT WORLD TO GET FREED EARLY FROM FEDERAL PRISON. HE IS A CRIMINAL THAT MISHANDLED TOP-SECRET INFO!! https://t.co/HhTgPUq2MK— ALWAYS A MARINE... (@grose65511) May 17, 2017
While responses vary, it’s clear Manning’s impact is far-reaching. Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has won awards for his coverage of Manning’s prison conditions, penned a feature at the Intercept exploring Manning’s influence on international geopolitics, calling her “one of this generation’s greatest heroes.”
“Her bravery and sense of conviction wasn’t a one-time outburst: It was the sustained basis for her last seven years of imprisonment that she somehow filled with purpose, dignity, and inspiration,” Greenwald writes.
“In the most humble yet determined tones, she insists on following what she knows is the right path regardless of the risks and costs to her. And in doing so, far beyond the initial acts of whistleblowing, she became a hero to LGBTs around the world, and so many other people, by demanding the right to be who she is, and to live freely, even under the most oppressive conditions.”
Ana Valens is a reporter specializing in online queer communities, marginalized identities, and adult content creation. She is Daily Dot's Trans/Sex columnist. Her work has appeared at Vice, Vox, Truthout, Bitch Media, Kill Screen, Rolling Stone, and the Toast. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, and spends her free time developing queer adult games.