Report from 4th July ‘Independence From America’ Day at Menwith Hill

See also these photos and this report.

Britain under US occupation

Every 4th July, there’s an Independence From America demo organised by CAAB outside the Menwith Hill US military base in occupied North Yorkshire, one of several US bases around the country. The facility is run by America’s National Security Agency (NSA), is a very important intelligence gathering and surveillance base, occupied and controlled by the American military and their agencies. The base has the ability to listen in to all our phone calls and intercept emails, as well as several other concerning roles including US ‘Missile Defense’ (read ‘Offense’) and intelligence-led warfare.

Read more about the work of the base in this recent report and on the CAAB website.

See also the Declaration of Independence from America that was read out at the demonstration and then formally presented to the RAF Liaison Officer at Menwith Hill, Squadron Leader Paddy Currie.

Free Bradley Manning!

Taking the opportunity to directly confront the US right here in Britain, banners in support of Bradley Manning and Julian Assange were put up at the demonstration alongside CAAB’s trademark inverted American flags with stencilled slogans and the various other peace flags and banners on display.

Bradley Manning has been held by the US without trial for over two years now, has been tortured, denied his rights and is currently being subjected to a torturous pretrial process in which the government is behaving obstructively, for instance failing to disclose material that could help Brad’s defence. Given the way he has been mistreated, the lack of due process and comments from Commander-in-Chief of the Military President Obama that he is guilty, it will be impossible for him now to have a fair trial. In any event, rather than prosecuted and persecuted as a whistleblower he should be protected, and would be if Obama had stayed true to his pre-election promises; instead he faces the likelihood of a lifetime in prison without parole for revealing the truth about the wars being fought by the US and supported by Britain and other western nations, about war crimes and other nefarious activities.

The big pink ‘Free Bradley Manning’ banner that has recently been on display in Bala, Chester, Liverpool and Wrexham, was put up with the aid of flag poles, thistles and a few well placed rocks (in the absence of a suitable fence) on the road opposite the base.

A smaller banner was hung on the fence looking into the base car park, in full view of the surveillance cameras for the benefit of those inside the base.

A new ‘Don’t shoot the messengers’ banner was hung on a hedge.

Some of the speakers mentioned Bradley in their addresses. One commented that rather than being awarded to a warmonger like President Obama, the Nobel Peace prize should have gone to a real peace-maker, at which several people shouted out spontaneously: “Bradley Manning!”

Carol Grayson (above), long-time campaigner on behalf of haemophiliacs, spoke about how she has now become involved in anti-war activism. Carol was executive producer for the award-winning short documentary film ‘Incident in New Baghdad’ that we screened in Cardiff in April. The film is about the soldier turned peace activist Ethan McCord and his role in the ‘Collateral Murder’ incident, the suppressed video footage of which Bradley Manning is credited with releasing to WikiLeaks. Carol’s latest project is to make a film about the victims of drone strikes in Pakistan this autumn.

Hands off Julian Assange and WikiLeaks!

There were also banners in support of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange, currently seeking political asylum in Ecuador over fears for his life and liberty at the hands of the US if extradited to Sweden. Read more in this update to the daily solidarity vigil taking place at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where Julian has sought sanctuary.

Although the extradition order in force is to Sweden to answer allegations (not charges) over sexual offences, the whole process has been extremely suspect as explained on the Justice4Assange website. The main issue is that onward extradition from Sweden to the US is a very real possibility, as is extradition from the UK under the unequal UK-US extradition arrangements in operation if Julian remains in Britain. See this Media Lens article for references to the risks Julian faces as well as some analysis of his persecution by the mainstream media.

A young Mexican man brought a banner to draw attention to the result of recent presidential elections in Mexico. Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate for the Party of the Industrial Revolution who was declared the winner in what is widely believed to be a rigged election, is a supporter of neo-liberal policies and liable to leave Mexico even more vulnerable to ongoing undue influence and control by the US. In March 2011, the US Ambassador to Mexico resigned after WikiLeaks released cables that exposed embarrassing comments he had made about drug wars in Mexico. There are many concerns about covert US operations in Mexico, as outlined in this article on the global research website.

Speakers, performers, entertainment and food

Performers were introduced by MC Martin Schweiger, Quaker, doctor and activist (pictured above). As well as Carol Grayson, a number of other speakers addressed those present. These included Lauren Booth, journalist, broadcaster and convert to Islam, who spoke about the disgust of war veterans such as her grandfather at US military expansion and intervention around the world in pointless and unwinnable conflicts at huge expense of civilian life; Philip Austin of Northern Friends Peace Board who talked about the significance of CAAB’s work, describing Menwith as the tip of a vast military-industrial iceberg that we must work together to tackle; the writer, journalist, television producer with Palestinian roots Karl Sabbagh, frequent visitor to Palestine and the Middle East who spoke about the history of the region, ongoing US support for Israel’s military occupation of Palestine and the disastrous effects of the occupation on the Palestinian people.

Tariq Jahan, whose son was killed during the riots in Birmingham last year and who spoke to the rioters urging them to be calm, was due to speak about US drones used in Pakistan but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute.

Music was provided by the East Lancs Clarion Choir, stalwart socialist folk singer Roy Bailey, the band Monkeywrenchers and others.

In a much-needed antidote to the Olympic Games, the Menwith Hill Alternative Games offered challenges such as the Golf Ball and Spoon race, Sack the Base race and Boot the Base Out (welly put) with chocolate medals awarded to the winners.

Excellent vegan food: curry, vegeburgers and cakes, along with hot drinks, were served all evening by the Yorkshire Kitchen crew from the 1 in 12 club in Bradford.

In conclusion

There have been many solidarity actions for Bradley Manning outside the US Embassy in London while solidarity with Julian Assange has to date focused on the court hearings and latterly the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. For those outside London, don’t forget that a US base (or a base with US military presence) is a good place to hold a vigil, put up or drop a banner, speak, protest or otherwise get your message across in solidarity with both Brad and Julian. Here’s a report in a local paper from a recent protest at USAF Fairford and a previous solidarity action at Menwith Hill for Bradley Manning. Lindis Percy, key organiser of the Independence FROM America event, has been supporting Bradley Manning from the outset. See also the Bradley Manning section on the CAAB website.

A list of bases can be found on the CAAB website and more information about how they operate here.

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