Julian Assange protest Julian Assange protest. Photo: Gary Griffiths

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets to demand freedom for Julian Assange ahead of his upcoming extradition appeal hearing, reports Gary Griffiths

Chants of “There’s only one decision – no extradition!”, “Free, free Julian Assange!”, “Journalism is not a crime” rang out in the streets of London on Saturday 23 October 2021 as hundreds of campaigners, organised by the Committee to Defend Julian Assange, marched from the BBC at Portland Place to the High Court, where a rally took place. 

It is ironic that such a march should have started at the BBC, which should be vociferously advocating on behalf of Julian Assange. If he is extradited to the US, then every single journalist there and elsewhere will be potentially subject to similar treatment.

As the first speaker at the rally, the Rapper, Lowkey, proclaimed “Julian Assange is not in Belmarsh now for any crime that he has committed. He is in Belmarsh now having a crime committed against him” He went on to tell the crowd that “Julian Assange is being punished because he advocated for OUR rights not theirs (the “war criminals” like Tony Blair and George Bush amongst others)”. He went further:

“It is a gross act of ingratitude for those in the media class to continue to verbatim reproduce memos that they have been given by the Ministry of Defence, especially on this issue of Julian Assange, when remembering how many adverts have been put on those websites of those companies off the back of stories that came from WikiLeaks.”

Richard Burgon MP, a later speaker, told those gathered that “War crimes were exposed by the fearless work of a journalist, whose award-winning journalism was carried out here in Britain. A journalist now held in a UK high security prison solely because of his journalism”.

Other speakers extolled and reinforced the virtues of Julian Assange, highlighted the gross injustices that the UK and US governments and their agencies are steeping upon him. These included John Rees, John McDonnell MP, one of the few who has been able to visit Julian Assange in Belmarsh, and the Raghad Altikriti, President of the Muslim Association of Britain.

The plight of Julian Assange was contextualised by the political singer and songwriter, David Rovics, in his lyrics and performance at the rally.

No one, who respects free speech, should be left in any doubt that the treatment of Julian Assange is anything other than an attack on the civil liberties of all of us. Should he be extradited to the U.S., it will be a death sentence. Free speech will wither with him, and all journalists will be working under a regime of fear globally. There should be no UK or US crocodile tears for Mr Jamal Khashoggi, the murdered Saudi Arabian journalist, when the governments of these countries are effectively in the act of murdering Julian Assange and truth.

As rally speakers announced, we should all be protesting outside the High Court, Strand, London WC2A 2LL, on Wednesday 27 October, when the case will be heard, following the US government’s appeal against the lower court’s earlier decision not to extradite Julian Assange. Let’s make some noise. Free! Free! – Julian Assange. Journalism is not a crime.

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