Thursday 20th December 2012
Tonight a large crowd of activists, supporters and media gathered opposite the Ecuadorian Embassy in Hans Crescent, Knightsbridge, London, as Julian Assange gave a much anticipated public address from the balcony of his refuge of the last six months.
The mood among supporters was festive and jovial, with seasonal hats and dress, food and mulled wine being shared and a beautiful array of candles and lights on show. Aussies Sue and Roland and Kiwi John (all friends from South London) led the crowd in Christmas carols and festive tunes – including a WikiLeaks version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. Support was diverse, including many from Anonymous UK, Occupy, Catholic Workers and London’s Latin American communities along with dozens of individual who had heard about the event and had come down to show solidarity and join in what was a cheery action with a community feel. Embassy vigil stalwarts from throughout the 6-month period also gathered and caught up with each other. It was good to see John Pilger again strolling through the crowds and to meet and speak with Hamja Ahsan, brother of Talha, recently extradited to the US and now detained in the harshest of conditions in a supermax prison.
To great cheers and applause, at just after 7pm, Julian appeared and gave a reflective, bullish and rallying statement that remembered those journalists, truth-tellers and whistleblowers that find themselves in prison facing the wrath of governments and reminded us all that WikiLeaks continues and will continue to do the work that the corporate media hides away from. The existence and prosecution of the on-going US campaign against WikiLeaks was also reiterated. How sad, but apt, that Julian’s words were initially heckled by the clownish antics of a member of the UK press.
Julian also acknowledged the solidarity vigil that has been maintained since he entered the embassy six months ago.
An alternative video perspective from the crowd of supporters is here
This is a full transcript of the address:
“Good evening London.
What a sight for sore eyes! People ask what gives me hope. Well, the answer is right here.
Six months ago – 185 days ago – I entered this building.
It has become my home, my office and my refuge.
Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy to speak to you.
And every single day outside, for 185 days, people like you have watched over this embassy – come rain, hail and shine.
Every single day. I came here in summer. It is winter now.
I have been sustained by your solidarity and I’m grateful for the efforts of people all around the world supporting the work of WikiLeaks, supporting freedom of speech, freedom of the press, essential elements in any democracy.
While my freedom is limited, at least I am still able to communicate this Christmas, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight.
Unlike Gottfrid Svartholm in Sweden tonight.
Unlike Jeremy Hammond in New York tonight.
Unlike Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain tonight.
And unlike Bradley Manning, who turned 25 this week, a young man who has maintained his dignity after spending more than 10 per cent of his life in jail, without trial, some of that time in a cage, naked and without his glasses.
And unlike so many others whose plights are linked to my own.
I salute these brave men and women. And I salute journalists and publications that have covered what continues to happen to these people, and to journalists who continue publishing the truth in face of persecution, prosecution and threat – who take journalism and publishing seriously.
Because it is from the revelation of truth that all else follows.
Our buildings can only be as tall as their bricks are strong.
Our civilization is only as strong as its ideas are true.
When our buildings are erected by the corrupt, when their cement is cut with dirt, when pristine steel is replaced by scrap – our buildings are not safe to live in.
And when our media is corrupt, when our academics are timid, when our history is filled with half- truths and lies, our civilization will never be just. It will never reach to the sky.
Our societies are intellectual shanty towns. Our beliefs about the world and each other have been created by the same system that has lied us into repeated wars that have killed millions.
You can’t build a skyscraper out of plasticine. And you can’t build a just civilization out of ignorance and lies.
We have to educate each other. We have to celebrate those who reveal the truth and denounce those who poison our ability to comprehend the world that we live in.
The quality of our discourse is the limit of our civilization.
But this generation has come to its feet and is revolutionizing the way we see the world.
For the first time in history the people who are affected by history are its creators.
And for other journalists and publications – your work speaks for itself, and so do your war crimes.
I salute those who recognize the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know – recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recognized in the First Amendment of the United States – we must recognize that these are in danger and need protection like never before.
WikiLeaks is under a continuing Department of Justice investigation, and this fact has been recognized rightly by Ecuador and the governments of Latin America as one that materially endangers my life and my work.
Asylum is not granted on a whim, but granted on facts.
The U.S. investigation is referred to in testimony – under oath – in the U.S. courts, is admitted by the Department of Justice, and in the Washington Post just four days ago by the District Attorney of Virginia, as a fact. Its subpoenas are being litigated by our people in the U.S. courts. The Pentagon reissued its threats against me in September and claimed the very existence of WikiLeaks is an ongoing crime.
My work will not be cowed. But while this immoral investigation continues, and while the Australian government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here.
However, the door is open – and the door has always been open – for anyone who wishes to speak to me. Like you, I have not been charged with a crime. If you ever see spin that suggests otherwise, note this corruption of journalism and then go to justice4assange.com for the full facts. Tell the world the truth, and tell the world who lied to you.
Despite the limitations, despite the extra-judicial banking blockade, which circles WikiLeaks like the Cuban embargo, despite an unprecedented criminal investigation and a campaign to damage and destroy my organization, 2012 has been a huge year.
We have released nearly one million documents:
Documents relating to the unfolding war in Syria.
We have exposed the mass surveillance state in hundreds of documents from private intelligence companies.
We have released information about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere – the symbol of the corruption of the rule of law in the West, and beyond.
We’ve won against the immoral blockade in the courts and in the European Parliament.
After a two-year fight, contributions to WikiLeaks have gone from being blockaded and tax-deductible nowhere to being tax-deductible across the entirety of the European Union and the United States.
And last week information revealed by WikiLeaks was vital – and cited in the judgment – in determining what really happened to El-Masri, an innocent European kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.
Next year will be equally busy. WikiLeaks has already over a million documents being prepared to be released, documents that affect every country in the world. Every country in this world.
And in Australia an unelected Senator will be replaced by one that is elected.
In 2013, we continue to stand up to bullies. The Ecuadorian government and the governments of Latin America have shown how co-operating through shared values can embolden governments to stand up to coercion and support self-determination. Their governments threaten no one, attack no one, send drones at no one. But together they stand strong and independent.
The tired calls of Washington powerbrokers for economic sanctions against Ecuador, simply for defending my rights, are misguided and wrong. President Correa rightly said, “Ecuador’s principles are not for sale.” We must unite together to defend the courageous people of Ecuador, to defend them against intervention in their economy and interference in their elections next year.
The power of people speaking up and resisting together terrifies corrupt and undemocratic power. So much so that ordinary people here in the West are now the enemy of governments, an enemy to be watched, an enemy to be controlled and to be impoverished.
True democracy is not the White House. True democracy is not Canberra. True democracy is the resistance of people, armed with the truth, against lies, from Tahrir to right here in London. Every day, ordinary people teach us that democracy is free speech and dissent.
For once we, the people, stop speaking out and stop dissenting, once we are distracted or pacified, once we turn away from each other, we are no longer free. For true democracy is the sum – is the sum – of our resistance.
If you don’t speak up – if you give up what is uniquely yours as a human being: if you surrender your consciousness, your independence, your sense of what is right and what is wrong, in other words – perhaps without knowing it, you become passive and controlled, unable to defend yourselves and those you love.
People often ask, “What can I do?”
The answer is not so difficult.
Learn how the world works. Challenge the statements and intentions of those who seek to control us behind a facade of democracy and monarchy.
Unite in common purpose and common principle to design, build, document, finance and defend.
Learn. Challenge. Act.
SIX MONTHS AT THE EMBASSY
Since 19th June this year people have been making their way to the Ecuadorian embassy on a daily basis to show support and solidarity for Julian Assange. The presence at the embassy has been changing and multi-faceted, serving sometimes as peace vigil, as a solidarity picket, to observe and protect at times of very real threat to the embassy, and to engage with and inform the public, still largely unaware of the true facts of the case. Here is a brief, personal, photo record of the last 6 months:
Amid dubious headlines in the UK press, supporters made their way down to the embassy, John Pilger visits Julian and speaks to media and supporters.
After an initial 24/7 presence, the vigil stabilises – individuals and groups visit in mornings and afternoons. An array of banners and placards grows on the railings of the embassy. After objections from residents, the banners are removed and the vigil area crosses the street to use the cordon long since abandoned by the media. The band plays on!
Ahead of Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Julian Assange, the UK threatens to enter the embassy – in response activists are called out to maintain an overnight presence (15th / 16th August). Crowds grow during the day of the 16th. Julian speaks from the balcony on the 19th.
Following the threat from the UK government to enter the embassy a 24/7 presence is maintained by Anonymous UK and Occupy for over 2 weeks. On the evening of 29th August police move in to disrupt and disperse the picket – removing barriers, tarpaulins and bedding from the camp and threatening arrest. The vigil continued. This is the scene early the following morning.
After reassurances from within the embassy, the vigil reverts back to a daily picket in the afternoons. Activist / educator Aidan Ricketts visits and donates his book. A strong Aussie presence remains and the police appear to be settling in for the winter.
As the days shorten and the weather becomes chilly, stalwarts continue to stand for Julian and WikiLeaks – the passing public remain curious and want to know what is happening with the case. On Columbus Day, London’s Latin American community comes in force to support Julian and Ecuador. Support from Sweden.
A daily vigil continues between the hours of 2pm – 5pm. WikiLeaks supporter Emmy stoically places her posters outside the embassy window and the police routinely remove them. Every few days Emmy returns and replaces her work. As Bradley Manning returns to court, so those protesting for him at the US embassy make their way down to Knightsbridge.
As newer faces, now able to make it to the vigil, join regulars on the picket, so a presence is maintained. The vigil rolls on and evolves. Julian’s address on the 20th is awaited with anticipation. Onwards to 2013.
In 2013 join in protecting Julian Assange. Help free Bradley Manning.
Learn. Challenge. Act. Now!