On June 19th in Melbourne around sixty people gathered outside the British Consulate in Collins St on the sixth anniversary of Julian Assange seeking asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The protest, called by this website, was part of a global day of action which in addition to a protest at the London embassy itself, spread across eight countries and 20 cities.
It was a lively, spirited event with loud chants of “Free Julian Assange” and “Bring Him Home” emphasizing the central demand of the protest ; that the Australian Government acts to ensure Julian can leave the embassy without the fear of being extradited to the U.S. on trumped up Espionage charges. The rally was held outside the front door of the building housing the British Consulate which was closed off for the duration of the event.
A highlight of the rally was the presence of John Shipton, Julian Assange’s father, and other members of hisfamily. Their presence highlighted that Julian Assange is not just an iconic persecuted journalist but a man who is being cruelly kept from his friends and family. The family’s concerns have obviously heightened since they have been prevented by the Ecuadorean Government from speaking or visiting him since March 28th. John made a short statement to the crowd:
Thankyou very much everybody. I just wanted to thank you on behalf of myself and Julian’s sister, brother, mother and family. His Aunty is here today. Thankyou all for your support and I am sure your support will generate the energy to bring Julian home and we can join him and he can thankyou personally. Thankyou.
Speakers included Greg Barns, prominent Barrister and Advisor to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Shirley Shackleton, whose journalist husband Greg was part of the Balibo 5 killed by Indonesian forces as they invaded East Timor in 1975 also spoke. Shirley has campaigned for 40 years to overturn the Australian Government cover up of her husband’s death. The final speaker was James Cogan, National Secretary of the Socialist Equality Party of Australia.
SCROLL DOWN ARTICLE FOR VIDEO OF SPEAKERS AND EDITED TRANSCRIPTS
Several individuals travelled from regional Victoria to attend the demonstration from far afield as Euroa, Sale and Shepperton. This demonstrates how those in attendance represented only the tip of the iceberg of public support for Julian Assange. This support was contrasted sharply with the ongoing betrayal of Wikileaks and Julian Assange by the middle class pseudo left protest groups. The only political organisation in attendance was the Socialist Equality Party of Australia, who along with the other sections of the ICFI internationally and via the World Socialist Website, have played a leading role in the defence of Assange and the current round of protests. Also in attendance were members of the anarchist group Disarm, who also organised a successful night vigil in Melbourne on June 19th. Every other so-called socialist, peace. anarchist or trade union group was absent. An excellent article from wsws.org gives an explanation of why an entire layer of people who previously defended Assange have now joined the State in persecuting him.
Whilst the mainstream media largely continued its blackout of discussion of Assange’s worsening plight, one significant exception was the coverage the vigil received on the nightly Channel 9 news in Melbourne. It sympathetic coverage can be seen below. Caitlin Johnson, the high profile, left wing anti-war independent journalist was also in attendance . Caitlin who had vigorously promoted the vigil writes regularly on the defence of Julian Assange.
The June 17th-19th protests, including the Melbourne protest, have made a big impact on shattering the silence and countering the suffocation of the solidarity campaign for Julian Assange. This gives these protests an objective significance that goes beyond their relatively small size. In addition, individual activists, independent journalists, organisations such as the Socialist Equality Party and Courage Foundation all made important links over the last few months to build these protests. This is the basis on which a much larger campaign to Free Assange can and will be built.
VIDEO OF GREG BARNS, SHIRLEY SHACKLETON, JAMES COGAN SPEAKING IN MELBOURNE JUNE 19TH
EDITED HIGHLIGHTS OF SPEECHES
Below are some selected highlights of the speeches given on June 19th. They are not the complete speeches.
JAMES COGAN – NATIONAL SECRETARY OF THE SOCIALIST EQUALITY PARTY
“Here in Australia our focus has to be on the responsibility for the persecution of Julian Assange and Wikileaks by successive Labour and Coalition Governments. At the demonstration on Sunday, both myself and journalist John Pilger raised the core demand, the Turbull Government must act now to ensure the unconditional release of Julian Assange from his involuntary confinement within the Ecudorean Embassy in London. We are not asking Turnbull, we are not begging Turnbull, we are demanding that they act.
In 2010 the Labor Government of Julia Gillard, threw Julian Assange to the wolves. Gillard denounced the actions of a media organisation as illegal activity. Her Attorney General said they would collaborate with the United States to prosecute him for espionage. Why? It is because the Labor Government and every successive Australian Government has fully aligned with the United States in a strategic and military build-up in actions against China. They are fully supportive of the U.S. military alliance, so they don’t care what happens to an Australian Citizen who exposes the war crimes of the United States Government and their own war crimes.
Labor, no less than Obama’s administration was hostile to the existence of a media organisation that was fearlessly prepared to let you know the truth about what goes in the corridors of power. Australian officials have done nothing for six years to assist Julian Assange under his condition of confinement in the Ecuadorean Embassy. Over the previous eighteen months, they have done nothing to assist him, as he has had to fight a protracted legal battle against fake, fraudulent, manufactured allegations of sexual assault. Slandered and smeared, the Australian Government did nothing to defend him.
Julian Assange was forced to seek asylum in a small, South American country because the Government of his own country refused to defend him. The Australian Government, the government of Malcolm Turnbull has undeniable diplomatic power, it has legal discretion, it has the right under international and national law to intervene even in the British Court system. In the case of Assange it is not that the Australian Government cannot act, it is that it is refusing to act. Instead, what has been happening, is that the Australian Government is supporting the vendetta to have Julian Assange confined to a U.S. prison cell or worse. As I said on Sunday, we hold the Labor Party and the Coalition Party that hold Government now, fully responsible for all the harm and all the outrages that have been committed against a principled journalist who is an Australian citizen. We will hold them responsible for what happens next. They will be held to account for anything that happens to Julian Assange
There is enormous support internationally for Wikileaks and Assange – it is being intimidated however by the fact that many, many organisations who once proudly declared their defence for media freedom, Wikileaks and Assange have now abandoned him. In this country amongst the ranks of those who have abandoned him is the entire mass media, The Greens, Independent Andrew Wilkie and of course the Trade Unions.
Now the fight to defend Assange is a crucial one and it must go forward from today but it is going to have to go forward not by making appeals to the organisations that have abandoned him and lined up with the U.S. military alliance. It will have to go forward with a turn to the working class. The mass of the people, the working people, must be mobilised in defence of democracy and all the social rights that are now under attack. These rallies that are being held on June 19th are important. They must be the launching pad for an ongoing renewed fight for Assange’s freedom. You all know the situation is very serious. They are seeking to break Julian Assange physically and psychologically. It is now over 11 weeks that he has been denied any external communication and as his lawyers are continuing to warn, his health situation is extremely grave.
If Julian Assange is forced out by the criminal actions of the British and Australian Government, and he is railroaded into a British prison cell on bail related charges, whilst an extradition process gets fought through the British courts to prevent him being effectively rendered to the United States to be tried as a “non-hostile intelligence state agency” – that is espionage, a foreign spy, an enemy combatant – then the fight to mobilise masses of people will be even more important. I urge everyone here today to go from this rally, speak to as many people as you can, in an ongoing way to seek to develop a mass political movement, for the defence of Assange, for the defence of all democratic and social rights, which his fate is bound up with.”
SHIRLEY SHACKLETON – WIDOW OF GREG SHACKLETON, AUTHOR AND CAMPAIGNER FOR TRUTH ON THE BALIBO 5
“I want those here today to vindicate Julian Assange, he won’t hear it, but they will! They are the people who are cutting off his rights, not only as an Australian but a human being, for doing his job. My husband was murdered for trade. Our leaders think this is their job. It doesn’t matter what happens to anyone, they have to make money.
Our leaders deny people’s freedom yet they tell whopping great lies. I have been the recipient of some amazing lies which people still believe today about my husband, Greg Shackleton. Poor Julian is in solitary confinement. That is the sort of thing that bastards do. Julian has done nothing wrong though, he has done wonderful work in the name of truth. And by their actions or should I say inactions the Australian Government shows they don’t care about Australians, that was established 40 years ago with the Balibo 5.
At the very least what I expect from our government is freedom of speech and democracy. Democracy is being denied to Julian Assange. He is not allowed a telephone or computer. He is dying by inches. That is not good enough. It is by the inaction of our government that this happening. He is an Australian citizen. It is a terrible sentence he does not deserve.
We think we have democracy. I don’t we do. I think it’s a lie. If anyone of us gets in trouble, we don’t have the freedoms we think we have. This is is being played out in the Senate where three bills are being debated about national security and espionage. I wonder if we could have a big cheer for Assange, he wont hear it but they will. Good on you Assange, you are one of our mob. An Australian hero who will be idolised for ever.”
GREG BARNS- PROMINENT BARRISTER AND ADVISOR TO JULIAN ASSANGE AND WIKILEAKS
. “Julian Assange is an Australian citizen, it is time to bring him home. The alternative to bringing him home is simply to go to the United States and the same fate that befell Chelsea Manning will befall him…so what we say today is very simple, bring Julian Assange home. This matter lies with the British Government, it lies with the Australian Government and it lies with those countries that truly believe in freedom of speech”.