Celebrities such as Michael Stipe, Sean Ono Lennon and and well-wishers across the globe have been celebrating the news of Chelsea Manning’s forthcoming release on social media using the hashtag #HUGSFORCHELSEA.
Chelsea’s 35 year sentence for releasing classified and sensitive information to Wikileaks and the way the authorities dealt with her transition had been widely criticised.
Chase Strangio, her ACLU attorney, told Slate.com that “since she was first taken into custody, Chelsea has been subjected to long stretches of solitary confinement—including for attempting suicide—and has been denied access to medically necessary health care…this move could quite literally save Chelsea’s life.” Prominent transgender writers and advocates – including Janet Mock – had campaigned for her to have proper access to support for her transition and for her release.
Human rights groups have welcomed Barack Obama’s decision to commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who will now be be freed on May 17, 2017, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. Amnesty International USA Director Margaret Huang says Chelsea’s release “is long overdue. It is unconscionable that she languished in prison for years while those allegedly implicated by the information she revealed still haven’t been brought to justice.”
Unsurprisingly, the news hasn’t been greeted with such joy amongst Republicans in the US, with the likes of Senator John McCain calling the release “a grave mistake that will encourage further acts of espionage” and House Speaker Paul Ryan described the decision as “outrageous”, adding “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets.”