Marines charged with trespassing during Confederate rally being discharged, punished
By ISAAC GROVES | The Times-News (Tribune News Service) | Published: September 14, 2017
One of the U.S. Marines charged with trespassing on a downtown Graham, N.C. building during a rally at the Confederate monument is on his way out of the Marine Corps.
“Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Manning is being processed for administrative separation from the Marine Corps, based on allegations brought against him as a result of his arrest May 20, 2017,” wrote Capt. Joshua Pena, public information officer with the Training and Education Command.
Manning was arrested with Staff Sgt. Michael Joseph Chesny, 35, during a the rally in Graham’s Court Square. Police say they climbed on top of 101 N. Main St., a building adjacent to the historic courthouse, prior to Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County’s Confederate Memorial Day rally, without permission of the owner, Jason Cox.
They face misdemeanor charges, which the military does not like, but they are probably in more trouble because while they were on that roof, they let down a banner that read, “He who controls the past controls the future,” a quote from George Orwell’s novel “1984,” and the banner also featured an “Identitarian” symbol and the letters “YWNRU” on the side — “You will not replace us,” the slogan chanted by demonstrators carrying torches in Charlottesville, Va., at protests of the removal of a Confederate monument in May and at the infamous “Unite the Right” protest Aug. 11 and 12. According to a protest leader, the slogan is an affirmation of being white.
Manning is a staff sergeant stationed at the Marine Corps Combat Engineer School at Camp Lejeune, and an instructor in the program. Pena said Manning is protected from having much information about his discharge released because his separation is administrative and not punitive, and there is no set timeline for when his discharge will be complete.
Manning told the Times-News on Thursday that he could not comment at this time and referred questions to Pena.
Chesny is a sergeant stationed at Cherry Point Air Station — under a separate command than Manning — where he serves as an explosive ordnance technician. He enlisted in November 2007 and became a sergeant in May 2013. The Marine Times reported he is under “administrative punishment.” The public affairs office at Cherry Point did not return a call from the Times-News on Thursday.
Both Marines are decorated combat veterans.
Manning joined the USMC in 2002, and has been a staff sergeant since 2014, earning a number of awards — including a Purple Heart — as well as good conduct, Afghanistan campaign and Iraq campaign medals. Chesny has received three Marine Corps good conduct medals, as well as multiple medals related to his deployment in Afghanistan.
Their records have not protected them from military discipline, and the Marines have officially condemned their actions in Graham.
Since a counterprotester was killed last month in the Charlottesville protest, military leaders, including USMC Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, have taken a public stand against “racial hatred and extremism,” as Neller wrote in a Tweet.
While the man charged in that death in Charlottesville, James Alex Fields Jr., spent only about four months in the U.S. Army, the military has been at pains since to avoid any association with service members and white supremacists. A 2008 FBI report warned that far-right leaders were making an effort to recruit active-duty and recently discharged combat veterans.
The charges against Manning and Chesny in Alamance County likely will not give them much trouble. They tried to plead guilty at their last court date Aug. 15. District Court Judge Fred Wilkins rejected their pleas, saying he did not see a factual basis for the crime and continued their case to Oct. 10.
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