Supporters gather in Hillcrest over Chelsea Manning release

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SAN DIEGO -- The woman behind one of the greatest classified information leaks in U.S. history is now free.

Chelsea Manning drew support and criticism from around the world Wednesday. In San Diego, many felt compelled to take to the streets of Hillcrest.

"This is a joyous day. I almost cried this morning," said Larry Pierce, who was one of about a dozen people who gathered around a pride flag hours after Manning tweeted about her release.

“First steps of freedom,” she tweeted.

Manning was convicted in 2013 of stealing almost a million pages of documents and videos before leaking them to Wikileaks. Manning -- known then as Bradley Manning -- was sentenced to 35 years in prison on 20 counts, including violations of the espionage act.

After the 2013 sentencing, the ex-intelligence agent changed her name to Chelsea Manning and became a transgender woman but was still held in an all-male prison. During one of his final acts in office, President Obama commuted Manning's sentence, thereby giving her an early release date. Obama called her initial sentence "unduly harsh."

But not everyone is praising her release. The initial news set off harsh criticism from some Republicans and intelligence officials including Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who said in part, "I did not support the direction the President went."

On Wednesday, many people wrote tweets suggesting Manning was only released because she is transgender.

Manning was the first service member to be approved for gender reassignment surgery in military prison.

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