On June 19, Julian Assange started his fifth year reclused in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Public figures and intellectuals have shown him support, including Noam Chomsky, Patti Smith, Roberto Saviano, Ken Loach, Brian Eno, Michael Moore, Vivienne Westwood, Slavoj Zizek, Sarah Harisson, Srecko Horvat, Baltasar Garzón and Angela Richter, just to name a few. They’re calling their initiative by the evocative name, First They Came for Assange.
The initiative will last one week, and meetings will take place in various parts of the world. In New York, Assange’s cause will be pleaded by the journalist and radical intellectual Amy Goodman, the investigative and documentary journalist (Dirty Wars) Jeremy Scahill, journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Christian Hedge and Assange’s attorney Carey Shenkman.
It is not the first time that these personalities have campaigned in favor of Assange since the beginning of the rape case against the Australian hacker in Sweden. Goodman, during her show “Democracy Now,” deconstructed the process of demonization against Assange on trial for two charges of rape, for refusing to use a condom during consensual sexual relations and in one case for not wanting to undergo an HIV exam: Under Swedish law, this is enough to constitute rape.
According to Assange, the Swedish inquest is a pretext to extradite him to the U.S., where he fears being convicted for the publication of thousands of embarrassing U.S. government documents on Wikileaks.
“There should be no reason for Julian to be jailed,” said Hedge. “The British government should assure him a ‘safe corridor’ to be able to catch a plane and travel legally to Ecuador. This will not happen, the United Kingdom is acting as a representative of the American government.”
In the media event First They Came for Assange, public figures who support him uploaded videos waiving their solidarity and their reasons in very different and personal ways: from the glossy denunciation of the perverse global mechanism that led and allows illegal detention of those who revealed atrocities, instead of detaining those who have committed them, made by Chomsky; the video shot on a plane by Brian Eno, beginning “Hello Julian, four years have already passed, but four years sitting in an apartment must feel so long,” then landing. At the core of all their comments: You have done a favor to everyone, letting us see the truth; now it is up to us to defend you.
The way to do this, according to fashion designer Westwood, who uploaded her solidarity video, like the others, was to create a Free Assange T-shirt. She had her models wear it backstage at the presentation of her new men’s collection, and she herself wore it on the catwalk when she walked out to collect the applause. A way to turn the lights back on over Assange, who risks being forgotten in that embassy at the disinterest of the (guilty) media
“When Julian released the Chelsea Manning leaks,” said Hedge, “he worked closely with newspapers like The New York Times, which then downloaded it. Why are they not being prosecuted? Why don’t they defend him? This is a violation of press freedom. Journalists should do it, because when you let it happen once, you don’t know how many more times it could happen.”
Assange himself also attended the event, by video conference, and he will participate this way in all programmed events. “History does not belong to the NSA, reporters or the media,” he said from the Ecuadorian embassy, “but to human civilization.” He added that Wikileaks is about to release another wave of documents on Hillary Clinton, containing sufficient evidence to indict her. “But she will never be accused,” he continued. “She has been colluding with the system for 20 years. For example, the headquarters of her campaign, without great fanfare, is now moved to the same building where, just a few floors below, is the office of the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. As long as Lynch is the attorney general, she will be safe.”
The hatred against Assange is absolutely bipartisan, as well as against Snowden, Hammond and Manning, common to every kind of power. In 2017, Clinton is expected to become the new American president, and in Ecuador, the government which granted asylum could change. He either needs to move from that embassy, or, at least, we need to keep talking about him.