Obama fundraiser interrupted by protesters seeking release of Bradley Manning

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning
AP/Graphics Bank

Updated 4: 56 p.m. Eastern Time

President Obama was interrupted by a group of protesters at a fundraiser at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco on Thursday who called on him to release from jail alleged Wikileaks leaker Bradley Manning.

Mr. Obama was in the middle of his speech when he was interrupted by a woman in the back of the room, who stood up and started singing, according to a pool report. The room was small - there were only about 200 people - and Mr. Obama could not ignore the woman, who said she had prepared a song for the president.

She began singing and humming as the other people at her table held up 8.5x11 yellow signs reading "Free Bradley Manning." Her song, which the other eight people at the table also began singing, included the lyric "we paid our dues, where's our change."

The song also included the lyric: "We'll vote for you in 2012, yes that's true, Look at the Republicans, what else can we do."

The woman eventually took off a White blazer to reveal a black t-shirt with Manning's picture. White House aides approached the table to try to end the song, and the woman was eventually escorted out by the aides. After the song ended, Mr. Obama said, "That was a nice song, much better voiced that I."

As she was escorted out, the woman said: "Free Bradley Manning. I'm leaving. I hope I don't get tortured in jail."

The lead protester was later identified as Oakland-based activist Naomi Pitcairn. In a forthcoming interview after the event with CBS station KPIX, Pitcairn reprized her performance and started singing the song again to the camera.

Turning back to his speech after the disruption, Mr. Obama said "Where was I? That didn't break my flow." The fundraiser then continued with the rest of the protesters still in the room.

Added the president: "As was indicated by that song, Over the last two and a half years, change turned out to be tougher than we expected."

It was one of six fundraisers Mr. Obama is holding on his three-day West coast swing, which also includes two town hall events. Tickets for the event ranged up to $35,800, with money going to the Obama Victory Fund.

Manning was moved to a Kansas jail this week after spending nine months in a Marine brig, where critics say he was held in unnecessarily harsh conditions.

One of the protesters gave a reporter a copy of the song lyrics, which were written on the back of a menu for the fundraiser. Also there was the url for the website for "Fresh Juice Party," which pays people small amounts to sing about Manning in public forums.

Briefing reporters on Air Force One after the event, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Mr. Obama said he thought the protest was "kind of funny."

Carney said the president took it in stride and suggested that it "certainly perked up the morning."

The song lyrics:

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?