Rachel Allen | The Importance of Julian Assange Activism

Part 1

I first went to a Free Julian Assange event on the 22nd February 2020. It was a march through London, from Australia House to Westminster Square, followed by speeches from activists and notable Assange supporters. This was real London – tourists from open top buses photographing us as we marched through this street. And this was real power – standing together with other people against the persecution of an innocent man.

I would like to discuss how and why I became involved with the movement to protect Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, release him from prison and prevent his extradition to the United States.

Prior to around 2016 my views about Assange were not particularly well formed. Sure, I’d known about him because he was mentioned in the media on occasion (usually negatively) and sure, I supported revealing bad things that governments had done. But I never paid that much attention to him.

The overwhelming image of Julian Assange in the media is of a “shady ‘hacker’, ‘sex offender’ and selfish ‘narcissist'”. Lissa K. Johnson, who wrote a powerful series called ‘The Psychology of Getting Julian Assange’, cogently explains the value of these media smears to the establishment. It is not just about getting you to believe a particular smear. It is about creating a Pavlov’s dog type reaction, where you hear Assange’s name and have an instinctive negative reaction to it.

I began to overcome these biases in 2016. I started consuming independent media content, rather than relying on sources such as The Guardian. Independent creators are generally more sympathetic to Assange. I was also very sceptical of the Russiagate narrative from the beginning. A key plank of this narrative was that Russia hacked the Hillary Clinton emails and sent them to Wikileaks, but this was proven false by former NSA worker and whistleblower Bill Binney.

 

The main thing that I came to see when I evolved and learned more was that the Assange issue is the most simple issue in the world, despite how the media and governments muddy the waters with smears. He is a journalist who is being persecuted and tortured for revealing war crimes. That’s it.

Alongside learning the full truth about Julian’s case, I developed strong feelings of moral duty. Assange had had the courage to the print the truth, and he had shown me the truth. Thus, I feel like I have a moral obligation to defend, support and protect him.

When Julian Assange was arrested on the 11th April 2019, I was filled with anger. Julian – looking ill and unkempt (the Ecuadorean government had taken away his shaving kit) being dragged out of the Embassy by thugs. Chelsea Manning had been rearrested a few weeks earlier in an attempt to extort testimony for the Wikileaks Grand Jury.

Actually taking action to defend Assange sadly did not happen as quickly as I would have liked, partially due to family circumstances. While I didn’t get down to London until 2020, I had taken smaller actions to help Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning.

Actually going to London to defend Assange has made me feel as if I am doing something positive and moral for another person and standing up for the truth, and I have had nothing but positive experiences with the other activists. I have been to London several times this year and have also done actions in Birmingham City Centre.

 

Part 2

I believe that the Assange case is fundamental to the future of humanity. So in this part of the discussion, I would like to outline the reasons why I believe everyone else should join me in the struggle to free him.

The reason for this is that his case is about fundamental rights and freedoms. These are non-partisan and should be defended regardless of your political philosophy or views.

The most obvious liberty that Assange represents is the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. He is being persecuted for journalistic activities. The horrific treatment of Assange by the UK government will encourage other journalists to self-censor under threat of the same treatment. The possibility of his extradition to the US is extremely dangerous for journalism, as anyone who exposes any information the US government disapproves of will face the same threat of extradition followed by prosecution and torture.

The second fundamental right involved in this case is freedom from torture. The UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, has been clear that Assange has been tortured by the British government, including through solitary confinement and medical neglect. Torture is illegal under both UK and international law and is a violation of all norms of law and human decency.

The third fundamental right is the right to a fair trial. The legal case against Assange is riddled with conflicts of interestbreaches of lawyer-client confidentiality, and judicial bias. In order to protect these fundamental rights for all people, we need to defend Assange.

There is a last point I would like to address, that is generally not explicitly stated. This is the idea that “other things are more important than Assange”. I feel very strongly that this view is wrong. Fundamentally, the freedom of the press is what allows for activism on other issues. Unless you know the truth and act from the basis of that truth, any activism you do will be misguided or possibly even counterproductive.

The work of Wikileaks in revealing the truth in a range of areas has enabled the possibility of positive change. Here are some of these:

War. Most famously this included the information leaked by former US intelligence officer Chelsea Manning regarding the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. This revealed evidence of war crimes such as the murder of civilians and journalists.

Protection of Children. As part of the US Embassy Cables leaks, it was revealed that US contractor Dyncorp were involved in facilitating child rape.

Democracy. The John Podesta email leaks showed how the Democratic primary of 2016 was biased against Bernie Sanders, for example, through use of Clinton’s preferences for debate.
Neo-Colonialism. Documents relating to French mining companies and the Democratic Republic of Congo showed how these companies exploit poor areas of the world and cause social and ecological destruction.
Environment. Wikileaks published the Minton Report, which shows how toxic waste was dumped and possibly affected over 100,000 people in the Ivory Coast. This information was suppressed until it was released by Wikileaks.
Torture & Human Rights. Wikileaks have revealed several documents relating to government torture, including files about Guantanamo Bay. The US Diplomatic Cables that Wikileaks published also demonstrated how the US was acting to stop prosecution of torture in the case of Khaled El Masri.
Government Overreach. Wikileaks has several publications relating to government spying , on the CIA, NSA and private firms involved in the global intelligence industry. This data is not just about American linked companies or institutions; they have also published Spy Files Russia about the company Peter Service.

Part 3

The London Protest

The Julian Assange extradition hearing took place on Feburary 24-28 and September 7-October 1. Further information about the court case can be found at Craig Murray’s website.

 
The verdict in the extradition hearing will take place on 4 January 2021, delivered at the Old Bailey. Protests will take place outside the court. Any verdict is open to appeal at the High Court by either side. 
 
A few simple actions you can do to help Julian Assange now:
 
You can start by contacting your MP. 26 MPs have signed this Early Day Motion in support of Julian Assange, primarily from the Labour party. At the very least contacting your MP gets them on the record with regards to the issue.
 

If you have the means you can contribute to the fundraiser for Julian Assange’s legal costs, set up by his fiancee Stella Moris.

 
You can also add your photo to this photo gallery.

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