With a lovely turnout last Saturday we marked Julian Assange’s Birthday by standing up for his Human Rights at Trafalgar Square demanding his freedom and the freedom of Trans woman Chelsea Manning currently in jail in the US for refusing to testify against Julian Assange at the WikiLeaks Grand Jury. Our usual spot outside the National Gallery had been transformed by stands creating a relatively narrow passage were busy Pride attendees crossed from one side of Trafalgar Square to the other. At times we were squashed against the back of the stands where we hanged our banners by the masses of people quickly passing by and whilst we were able to distribute hundreds of flyers we rightly felt at times in danger of being swept away in a tide of people. The video below captures a quiet moment.
and so we found refuge outside Sainsburies building of the National Gallery were we could have a more enjoyable experience and have the opportunity to engage with the public. We chanted supportive messages for the freedom of Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, telling the story to passers by and had a great action spanding three hours, making new friends, getting to know new faces. We were fortunate to have SEP members once more joining us in solidrity and distributing their supportive flyers, and enjoyed two wonderful new banners donated to the campaign by inminds.com.
Some of us had travelled from far away. Polly from Leicester said: “It’s just so important to make the effort to come from Leicester. I feel responsibility for what will happen to him if we let him be extradited. I think that would be awful don’t you?”
Mala from Belgium said: “I came from Belgium because I believe this issue is the ost important in the 21st century, Press Freedom and Human Rights, and I wasn’t able to be here for the hearing as the date was changed. Increasing the public awareness is the most important action we can take today in support of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. This case relates to our fundamental bases of our democracy and WikiLeaks is the most important News Organisation we have now-are-days”.
Most people showed interest in our demo but there were some who asked what has Pride got to do with Julian Assange and here is a very good explanation by one of our members.
‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’
From Derek Jardine
On Saturday 6 July, the JADC held one of its regular protests in Trafalgar Square calling for the freedom of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. This coincided with the annual LGBT Pride rally held to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall rally.
I joined the Gay News Collective in 1972 and have spent almost 50 years campaigning for gay rights. I have never seen that struggle in isolation but as part of the broader fight against all oppression. Fifty years ago, Julian and Chelsea would have been viewed as heroes by any minority group suffering state-orchestrated human rights abuses. But on Saturday I saw little evidence of the political awareness that sparked the Stonewall uprising.
I found the response we got sad, disappointing and at times shocking. While some people were open-minded, we also faced apathy, annoyance and at times outright hostility. “What has Assange got to do with Gay Pride?” we were often asked. A few revellers, promptly tore up our leaflets saying things like “Why are you defending this rapist?”, and “This guy put lives in danger, by releasing secrets.” All the usual shameless lies that are fed to the public by the mainstream media.
The same kind of choreographed media manipulation of public opinion that has smeared and demonised Julian Assange was used against the gay community in the early eighties. Gay men in particular became the target of a relentless and vicious media campaign when AIDS / HIV was used to push back against the demands of the LGBT community for equal rights. Terms like “gay virus plague” were headlines in tabloid newspapers such as The Sun.
Many LGBT people at the time drew on their own experience of state repression to show their solidarity with other groups in struggle against the state. Led by Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), they supported the 1984-85 miners’ strike. LGSM Founding member, Mark Ashton told his gay activist friends: “Mining communities are being bullied like we are, being harassed by the police, just as we are. One community should give solidarity to another. It is really illogical to say: ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else’.”
Today, so-called Western “democracies” (including Israel), promote their new-found acceptance of LGBT rights as evidence of their humanity and respect for human rights, while they simultaneously invade, bomb and lay waste to one country after another. Julian Assange, more than any other journalist, has exposed the West’s lie of humanitarian intervention.
The answer to the question we were asked on Saturday ‘What has this got to do with Gay Pride?’ is this: Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning have put their liberty and lives on the line in the fight for human rights, democracy and freedom of the press. Gay people have used those rights in their struggles and need to defend them. We once knew that ‘An injury to one is an injury to all.’ It is incumbent upon all of us who care about human rights and free speech to stand with, and defend Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning
Free Julian Assange! Free Chelsea Manning!