Solidarity with Manning & Assange in run-up to NATO summit in Wales

Correction and apology

The article below makes reference to Chelsea Manning passing through Ireland’s Shannon airport en route to Iraq.

We now know from direct communication with Chelsea that this was not the case and that she did not pass through Shannon airport at any time, although nearly 2.5 million other US soldiers have done so. The use of Shannon by the US military is an ongoing and contentious issue in Ireland.

The information apparently came from a member of Manning’s Unit and was passed onto us in good faith by a trusted source. We apologise for this error and any confusion it has caused.

WISE Up, May 2015

by Genny Bove

The NATO Summit, Manning, Assange and WikiLeaks

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As the warmongers of the western world gear up for their meeting to plan NATO’s next round of military action and push countries to spend even more of their money on warfare, I headed to Newport for the week of action taking place in resistance to the summit. Chelsea Manning exposed NATO’s war crimes through documents released to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks published them. The NATO leaders ultimately responsible for the crimes detailed in some of these documents walk free, while Chelsea Manning has been locked up for 35 years for telling the truth and Julian Assange remains wanted by the US, with a Grand Jury still investigating four years on. Assange has been trapped in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over two years because of Britain’s refusal to respect his asylum rights under international law.

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Week of Action

Lots has been going on since the end of last week, with many events running in parallel (see No NATO Newport and Stop NATO Cymru for more details), but my focus so far has been on the action camp in Tredegar Park and on a couple of other events, starting with the No to NATO march in Newport on Saturday 30 August.

No to NATO A to B march

Considering the threat NATO poses to all life on earth, the size of the march opposing the upcoming summit was disappointing. I didn’t count, but with estimates from 600 to 2,000, it was clearly nowhere near as big as it should have been.

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However, there were three Manning and Manning/Assange banners, thanks to seven or eight steadfast supporters who carried them all the way.

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Great to see Veterans for Peace there too.

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The SWP and the Socialist Party were out in force with stalls and newspapers, while others flyered the crowd with all kinds of useful information. The most interesting leaflet by far was the one I drafted this report on the back of… about GLADIO: “European False Flag Terrorism sponsored by NATO.” GLADIO is a “formerly secret NATO structure” infiltrating left and right wing groups since the second World War and with a “Strategy of Tension” to terrorise the population and lead to the strengthening of the secret state. GLADIO has been held responsible for a number of “terrorist” attacks – most recently, the Telegraph reported that snipers in Kiev who killed both protesters and police “were from far right wing groups probably working with NATO intelligence services as in previous false flag operations.”

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I wasn’t at the front of the march so didn’t see who was leading it but I guess it must have been the Stop the War Coalition or CND. I don’t think I’ve ever been on an A to B march so intent on reaching its end point in the shortest possible time. For goodness sake, WALK SLOWLY on such marches, and leave plenty of space between you and the people in front or no one will see your beautiful banners and placards! The streets are ours, so why rush to get it over with? Of course the stewards were doing their best to hurry people along. I was told more than once to “close the gap”, but we need to resist this rubbish and take our time. There were plenty of people lining the streets and we should have given them more of a chance to enjoy the spectacle and absorb the message rather than flying past in a blur of banners.

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So, in record-breaking time we arrived at Westgate in the centre of Newport, site of the 1839 Chartist Uprising.

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The speeches followed, with the usual suspects and others including Medea Benjamin from the US Women’s anti-war group CODEPINK; Ray Davies of CND Cymru and Margaretta D’Arcy, recently imprisoned for resistance at Shannon airport, who gave the shortest but one of the most hard-hitting speeches. She explained how supposedly ‘neutral’ Ireland has allowed this civilian airport to be used by the US as a stopping off point for troops, weapons, supplies and rendition flights, all part of NATO’s wars. WikiLeaks cables have revealed quite a lot about Shannon airport and the relationship between Ireland and the US. This article by Harry Browne in Counterpunch explains more.

Despite the shortcomings of an A to B march, this was at least good and visible and we made new friends there who are interested in joining our solidarity work for Manning and Assange. I got talking with quite a few locals who’d come along to watch the march and speeches or who just happened to be in the city centre. None of them had anything good to say about the NATO summit coming to Newport.

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More photos here.

Protest at the NATO Security Fence in Cardiff

On Sunday, I joined the protest against securitisation and policing at the security fence currently turning Cardiff into some kind of open prison (at vast cost to the public purse). We arrived early, so I put up my own banners near St. John’s for starters. At least five ‘liaison officers’ were assigned to ‘facilitate your peaceful protest’ and hung around despite me making it abundantly clear that they were surplus to requirements.

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I handed out flyers and solidarity postcards until it was time to head back to the Castle or at least the fence that has rather superfluously been thrown around it.

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The fence decorated with our messages and a couple of sound systems adding to the atmosphere, some of us turned our attention to the pavement and set about chalking more thoughts about NATO, Manning, Gaza.

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Cardiff is busy on a Sunday afternoon and there was plenty of interest from passers-by. The whole event soon attracted a large crowd and there was plenty of opportunity to discuss the issues with interested folk.

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The police presence was huge and completely out of proportion to the action. Cops from all over Britain and Northern Ireland, mounted police, all manner of vehicles including this monstrosity…

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…and armed police strutting about smugly.

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When I questioned one about what on earth he was doing in Cardiff shopping centre on a Sunday afternoon he moved towards me, pushing me back with his weapon (if it had been the other way round it would have been ‘assault’ of course), before eventually admitting he was there “because we’re told to.” When I said that I felt strongly this was making Cardiff less safe, he laughed and said “We’re very well trained” and when I referred to an instance where someone was shot and killed for carrying a table leg in a bag (reported here in the Daily Mail), he said “I’m not talking to you any more” and turned tail.

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The protest continued visibly and largely in good humour for well over four hours before we reclaimed our banners and decamped to a local pub for a quick drink before heading back to Newport.

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In terms of community engagement, the action was big, highly visible and led to many conversations about NATO, the fence, policing, Chelsea Manning, Gaza… and like Newport, I didn’t meet anyone who was happy about the summit coming to town.

More photos here.

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Coming soon: NATO war crimes exposed by Chelsea Manning reported to Gwent police.

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