Susan Clarkson has written this report about her vigil outside the High Court (Royal Courts of Justice) in London:
After holding weekly two hour vigils at the US Embassy in support of Bradley Manning during Lent, I thought of returning there when I heard a date had been set for the extradition hearing of Julian Assange. A friend experienced in supporting Assange, Ciaron O’Reilly, suggested that I do the vigils at the Royal Courts of Justice where the hearing will be held. Ciaron joined me for an hour on the first of these four vigils but during the time I was alone there I reflected on several things. The sign I had prepared said, “Free Assange! Free Manning! Free Speech!” and had a quote from Bartolomeo Vanzetti which I’d come across in a Joan Baez song, “Only silence can shame.” Both Manning and Assange are being punished for speaking the truth about wars fought in our name and as such need to know we support them, in however small a way.
The RCJ is a fascinating place with people constantly going in and out. As well as legal people who work there and others who go in seeking justice(!), there were groups of tourists and several groups of law students visiting too. A few people stopped to talk and ask questions and only one who spoke to me had anything negative to say about Assange’s case. In general the legal types who approached me seemed sympathetic.
The building is indeed impressive in a grand Gothic fashion but I couldn’t help thinking that the very grandeur reflects an arrogance which is sadly too often present in our British institutions and the buildings which house them. It was built in the 1870’s and as I stood there I thought of what the area would have been like when the building was new. Inevitably vivid Dickensian images of poverty, filth, misery, squalor and disease floated into my mind and I remembered too how Dickens wrote with such rage in “Bleak House” about the hypocrisy of the law. Julian Assange will feel the full force of the law on 12 July and I pray that justice and truth will prevail.
Elsberg was a hero in the 70s. It’s good to know heroes are still coming forward today.
A moving report on your vigil. Some years ago – 1960 I think it was – I remember visiting the RCJ where 3 or 4 lawyers were getting together to discuss the setting up of a new movement which was only supposed to last for one year, after which time it was assumed it would have done its work. They called it ‘Amnesty International’. RCJ may shelter many open minds.