Bradley Manning billboard sparks controversy

Billboard supporting Army Private Bradley Manning. (Photo: Autria Godfrey)

A new billboard along one of D.C.'s busiest roads is sparking controversy.

The billboard, located in the 1200 block of New York Avenue NE, is emblazoned with the headline "Free Bradley Manning."

Army Private Manning is at the center of the Wikileaks scandal, accusied of turning over thousands of top secret documents to the whistleblower website. It is the largest breach of classified information in U.S. history.

The location is strategic. The group selected the strip because it connects D.C. with Fort Meade. It's a drive military decision-makers take each day.

Perry Nesmith, a former member of the Navy, finds the billboard unsettling.

"We don't know how many people may have gotten killed or gotten hurt because of what he's done," Nesmith said.

In his opinion, Manning broke the military's cardinal rule: protect your fellow man.

One of the men behind the billboard, Zack Pesavento, said the intent is to dispel the idea that Manning is a traitor.

"Bradley manning has always stayed true to his oath to defend the constitution," Pesavento said. "Manning has been subjected to all kinds of unconscionable abuse, prolonged solitary confinement and forced nudity, a lot of things that I don't think any American should be treated that way."

The billboard costs $16,000 a month.

The billboard debuted this month because this is the month Manning will find out whether or not he is court martialed.

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