Report by Maxine Walker
On Monday 22 July several hundred people attended a People’s Assembly rally outside Downing Street to declare that Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson was ‘Not my Prime Minister’ and to call for a ‘General Election Now.’ Speakers included: Caroline Lucas MP, Richard Burgon MP, Laura Smith MP, Diane Abbott MP, Owen Jones, Eddie Dempsey RMT, Lindsey German and others.
The Julian Assange Defence Committee attended to leaflet the demonstration and also to challenge speakers about their silence on the issue of Julian Assange’s threatened extradition to the US. We received a positive response to our leaflets from those attending. We had sent letters to all members of the Shadow Cabinet letters in mid-June asking for them to speak up on this issue. To date we have received no replies.
The emphasis of many of the rally speakers was the campaign against austerity with its creation of widespread poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. Johnson has pledged to cut taxes for the wealthy and build a closer relationship with the USA. Many stressed the racist and jingoistic character of Johnson’s politics.
However nobody mentioned Julian Assange. There were some speakers who warned of Johnson’s policy of becoming a ‘poodle of the USA’. However, it might be said that the UK has performed that role for many years and this is demonstrated very well by the outspoken willingness of the government to extradite Julian Assange to the USA. Nobody spoke of the fierce attack on democratic rights – particularly on a free press – that the Julian Assange case represents.
The hopes of the rally’s speakers and audience were pinned on the election of a Jeremy Corbyn-led government. Richard Burgon said that ‘The Establishment will move heaven on earth to stop Jeremy Corbyn’s election’. It is certainly the case that Corbyn has faced persistent attacks and press smears.
Richard Burgon, unlike most Labour Shadow Cabinet members, has expressed opposition to the extradition of Julian Assange to the USA, for example, tweeting: ‘Now Julian Assange faces extradition to the USA for allegedly aiding Manning. Deep concerns Assange will face similar treatment to Manning in the USA’. Diane Abbott also made a statement opposing Julian Assange’s extradition to the USA in the Commons on 11 April but, along with Corbyn, backtracked having come under the usual pressure from the tireless lobby crying ‘Send him to Sweden’.
JADC members spoke briefly to Richard Burgon and asked why none of our letters to the Shadow Cabinet had been answered. There was not a clear answer to this question. We also spoke to Eddie Dempsey of the RMT who said that he supported Assange and indeed he did tweet on 11 April ‘I stand with Julian Assange. Unequivocally.’ He then came under the same Twitter barrage of abuse, lies and nonsense faced by anyone who stands with Assange. Or indeed anyone who fights to expose the imperialist war machine and oppose the world’s elite.
JADC members also spoke to Owen Jones, Guardian journalist. He belongs to the Guardian ‘Whatever you think of Julian Assange, his extradition to the US must be opposed’ camp. This is a trick to seem to be opposing it but not doing so in reality and indeed putting anyone else off supporting Julian Assange. Owen Jones said extradition to the USA must be ‘passionately opposed’ (Guardian 12 April) but he has not opposed it in any way that we know. He wriggled when JADC members spoke him saying ‘It’s very complicated’… He ‘opposes extradition’ but JA must ‘answer the case’.
While he may find it ‘complicated’, most people who study the case and understand the imperialist war machine, do not find it complicated. They stand with Julian Assange, press freedom and the right to know what are rulers are doing when they wage their endless wars. It is not enough for those who oppose Assange’s extradition to tweet once or occasionally. They have to actually start speaking out regularly, loudly and effectively to avoid his extradition to the US and free the man from this persecution.