On Saturday 24/04/21, a beautiful sunny Spring day, we gathered outside Belmarsh prison for a solidarity vigil in support of Julian Assange, distributing flyers to passing traffic with motorists beeping their horn in solidarity in response to our flyer ‘Beep to Free Assange’.
12 of us continued with our solidarity work some having crossed the country to be there. We exchanged views and news, hopes and plans about our activism.
At the end we walked across to the entrance of Belmarsh prison where we had a few words to say.
Later on in the afternoon at Dalston we spoke in defence of Julian Assange and joined others in demanding the release of all political prisoners. We took turns to read our speech and this is what we said:
I speak today on behalf of the Committee to Defend Julian Assange. I bring solidarity to all the political prisoners of the world. Theirs is the hardest and loneliest road of struggle and sacrifice.
In the USA and here, those political prisoners arise from each phase of the struggle against oppression. A cohort of Black Panthers and members of other organisations remain gaoled although now in their seventies and eighties. One of them, Albert Woodfox was kept in in solitary confinement in a 6ft by 9ft concrete box for 43 years until finally he was released 2 years ago.
The FBI counter-intelligence programme – COINTELPRO for short – ran from the mid-50s to the seventies – though its aims and new programmes of destroying domestic political opposition continue today. Its tactics included discrediting targets through psychological warfare, planting false reports in the media, smearing, surveillance, harassment, wrongful imprisonment, extra legal violence and assassination. The Black movement was a particular target and so we see figures like Mumia Abu-Jamal – 4 decades imprisoned – currently shackled to a hospital bed with protests from the UN and many others being ignored by the Biden Administration.
These prisoners have been used as living examples of what will happen if you seriously oppose the ruling class.
In that context I want to turn to the case of Julian Assange – locked up, persecuted, a victim of psychological torture. Imprisoned for what crime – for revealing the naked truth about the war crimes, torture programmes, rendition, murders by the US, Britain and other NATO partners. Wars in which untold numbers, perhaps a million people have died and 37 million people have been displaced in the Middle East. He is a political prisoner, imprisoned for revealing these truths.
Although we are internationalists, our over-riding duty is to fight for the political prisoners locked up by our governing class. That is our first duty. Every tactic used against the opposition movements I have described has been used against Julian Assange both by Britain and the US. He has been deprived of liberty for ten years, the past two spent in almost total isolation in Belmarsh prison just a few miles from here. He remains there even though a Court here has refused his extradition. The Biden administration has chosen to Appeal this decision.
Both the US and Britain have devoted vast resources in order to make an example of Julian Assange and get him to the USA where he faces no chance of a fair trial and a possible 175-year sentence. He too has been made an example of – this is what we do to you if you expose us, and tell the truth. He has suffered a ten-year programme of smears – with the liberal Guardian in the lead – which have effectively turned the spotlight away from what he actually exposed and instead turned it on him. He suffered a CIA programme of 24-hour surveillance in the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been granted asylum. They filmed his lawyers meetings, his doctors, they surveilled and harassed his visitors. They discussed kidnapping or poisoning him.
He was illegally and violently removed from the Embassy – an operation planned at the highest levels of the British state as Alan Duncan has recently revealed – literally planned from the top floor of the Foreign Office. His allies and friends were persecuted, his organisation Wikileaks repeatedly attacked by all means possible. And his treatment by the courts here has been exactly what you would expect from British injustice, his trials have been a secretive farce with 40 NGO’s refused access and Julian in a glass box at the back of the court unable to speak to his lawyers. The mainstream press hardly reported it.
I would urge all of you to join the struggle to free Julian Assange. He is the political prisoner in our backyard and if we don’t succeed in this fight, it will be a blow for all struggles that take place here and indeed in the USA. Let us make sure that in 40 years time there is a not a gathering somewhere in London to try to get Julian Assange out of a US prison. The time is now – I urge you all to act now.
Free Julian Assange
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