By Joe Brack EF Press
Saturday 15 May 2021
After 2 years of protest at the horror of Julian Assange’s incarceration and 7 years of isolation and persecution as a political asylee in the Ecuadorian Embassy, supporters returned once again to the desolate Western Way in Woolwich to demand his release and to hold to account those who work at HMP Belmarsh.
No doubt the motorists who take a leaflet at the traffic lights outside and honk their horns in support have become familiar with our vigils and hopefully take the message to a wider community. Sullen prison staff navigate the yellowed ribbon festooned route to work, unable to ignore the huge posters appealing for witnesses to a kidnap in Kensington, on 11 April 2019.
For those unfamiliar with UK’s super max detention facility please listen to John Pilger’s harrowing account of visiting Julian and the cruel and brutal treatment not only of the detainees, but also of their families, visitors and even legal teams. Denying visits during the past year as the risk assessments at Belmarsh must, by implication, have been severe enough to warrant further restriction.
Outside the 5m high walls of Belmarsh, it’s not hard to imagine the appalling conditions within and feel the shame and injustice of his case. As his partner Stella Morris informs us this is a fundamental issue of free speech and an ignoble attack on the US 1st Amendment right. They deny its application to non US citizens and have extended the punitive silencing of whistleblowers to foreign journalists and publishers.
Although depressing and horrific, we are steadfast in maintaining the vigils at Belmarsh to be near Julian as well as informing staff and the public the truth of his punishment. After Saturday’s action we moved to Feltham, West London, to marvel at the new advertising for Julian’s feedom, and hoping for an impact on the citizens of Hounslow.
Combining leafleting and one to one engagement, with the JADC campaign poster as a backdrop, elevated a street action to a wider public awareness and support. With 5 sites across London bringing the truth to those who witness, providing an alternative narrative to the usual toothpaste ads and Government propaganda we see but care not.
Hounslow, like many London boroughs, is a microcosm of our current crisis, a mixed community trying to recover but unsupported by Central Government and beset by economic collapse. People could relate to Julian’s suffering and were surprised at his continued punishment despite winning his case in January 2021. We see this reaction more and more, hoping that public opinion can break institutional lawfare and persuade our High Court judges to side with Julian and the clear threat to free speech.
As we all await their decision the pressure must be maintained for the reclamation of the public’s right to know. Ignorance is not bliss. We demand culpability for those who torture and kill, especially those public servants using our resources and finance.
Joe Brack EF Press