WASHINGTON -- Attendees at a high-ticket fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee on Thursday burst into song in the middle of a speech by President Barack Obama, protesting the government's treatment of alleged Wikileaks whistleblower Bradley Manning.
Obama was delivering remarks at San Francisco's St. Regis Hotel to a crowd of about 200 donors—some of whom paid $35,800 each to attend—when a woman in a white suit stood up and said, “Mr. President, we wrote you a song,” according to White House pool reports.
The president tried to get her to wait, but the woman persisted and “the table of 10 broke into a song that pointed out they'd just spent $5,000 donating to his campaign and went on to protest the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning,” the pool report states. (Scroll down for video.)
Manning, a U.S. Army soldier, has remained in detention since May 2010 on suspicion of passing confidential material to the website WikiLeaks.
During the performance, Obama reportedly turned to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had introduced the president at the event, and asked if she had something to do with the interruption. “Pelosi had a look on her face, as she stared at the singing group, that definitely said she did not,” the report states.
The ten singers passed around signs that said “Free Bradley Manning,” and the woman in the white suit took off her jacket to reveal a t-shirt emblazoned with the same message. She was ultimately escorted out of the event, and two others left on their own. The rest stayed and applauded at the end of Obama’s speech. The woman can be seen here.
Obama responded to the incident by saying “that was a nice song” and calling it “an example of creativity” as he talked about needing DNC members to return to the energy levels they exhibited in 2008. The pool reporter on the scene, the Wall Street Journal's Carol Lee, said Obama “took the song in stride and at first he didn't seem to realize it was a protest song.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said later that Obama thought the protest was funny and that it “perked” up his morning, CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller tweeted. Knoller, aboard Air Force One with the president, also tweeted that protesters chose the wrong gig for their schtick: Press ground rules at the event called for no TV or radio coverage, only pen and pad.
One of the singers gave Lee a copy of the song lyrics. Scroll down for a video of the singing protest.
Dear Mr. President we honor you today sir
Each of us brought you $5,000
It takes a lot of Benjamins 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 6x12 cell sits Bradley
23 hours a day is night
The 5th and 8th Amendments say this kind of thing ain't right
We paid our dues, where's our change?