New York City #HomeRun4Julian
Last night NYC welcomed Julian Assange's father, brother and an esteemed panel of long time advocates Roger Waters, Chris Hedges, Randy Credico and Aaron Maté
The People’s Forum had a sell out crowd. If you weren’t lucky enough to have a ticket to this historic event you can check out the livestream linked in the picture below.
Thursday was both an historic apex and nadir with an esteemed panel and honored guests necessitated by Orwellian prosecution and ongoing torture of Julian Assange. This will remain a dark stain on human rights and global justice for generations.
More #HomeRun4Julian pictures are in my NYC #FreeAssange collection at Flickr. Big time kudos and thanks to all of the organizers and panelists for a phenomenal event and universal message to keep putting feet in the streets. A summary for keynote speakers hardly does justice to the full impact of their words and the event but it captures some of the energy and focus of this incredible group fighting to free Julian.
Randy Credico was at his comedic best noting the post COVID crowd was the largest audience he’s had since his Mueller Grand Jury appearance. Gabriel Shipton was delighted by the Bernie Sanders impression he had requested; Randy delivered a hilarious spoof of Sanders thanking Julian and WikiLeaks for publishing the trove of DNC emails revealing how the nomination was stolen from Bernie in 2016.
Randy thanked Margaret Ratner Kunstler for her pivotal role in the WBAI radio series “Assange Countdown to Freedom“ launched four years ago. He reminded the listeners about Assange advocate and decade long supporter Craig Murray who is facing a jail sentence in retaliation for courageous adversarial journalism which drew enormous applause and a standing ovation from the entire panel and audience.
Credico listed a series of public figures who have been fighting for Julian’s freedom adding kudos to many key individuals in the streets. Among them were @greekemmy with a decade of vigils outside the Ecuadorian Embassy now at Belmarsh. He also thanked Chuck Zlatkin and Bernadette Evangelist with @NYCFreeAssange. Randy closed on a serious note recalling Julian held in a glass box, like a war criminal at his hearing in London and a reminder; without freeing Assange and Free Press to expose crimes and abuses of government we have an uninformed public and no democracy.
Chris Hedges delivered an eloquently somber assessment with powerful quotable lines about the imminent threat of unchecked power and vanishing Rule of Law. He opened by saying, “A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice and this is why we are here tonight.” After summarizing the reasons we admire Julian and condemn the injustices Assange has suffered, Hedges emphasized this struggle is the most important battle for freedoms in our lifetime.
“Tyrannies invert the Rule of Law and turn the law into instruments of injustice.. they use the decorum of the Courts to mask their criminality… The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the Rule of Law.“
Hedges described the court process in London as a farce and likened the Judge to the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland who has no legal basis to try an Australian citizen under America’s 1917 Espionage Act its own citizens are subject to. Chris listed additional disqualifiers to prosecution including CIA contractors spying on Julian in the Ecuadorian Embassy to record privileged conversations between Julian and his defense lawyers emphasizing, “This fact alone invalidated the trial.”
He cited Craig Murray and Nils Meltzer assessment of the unlawful torture imposed on Julian asserting, “It was judicial pantomime. Prosecutor Lewis and the Judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalism and muzzle the press while they busily set up the framework to criminalize journalism and muzzle the press… it was a tawdry show trial.”
Chris Hedges continued with the idea that what we demand in Freeing Julian is not radical but a simple and basic return to the Rule of Law. “It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary but living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance. This truth terrifies those in power.“
Chris recalled his trip with Human Rights legend Michael Ratner to visit Julian at an apartment in London soon after releasing the Collateral Murder video and War Logs. He quoted Michael Ratner’s words to Assange. “WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political… It doesn’t matter who is in the White House the US Government will try to keep you from exposing its secrets. If they have to destroy you, the First Amendment and rights of publishers to do it they will.“
Aaron Maté is known for fierce adversarial journalism but it’s strikingly clear it comes from deep caring and compassion, traits we seldom equate with tenacious fighters. True to his ethos of righteous justice Aaron spoke to our collective humanity and how much physical gatherings embody the best of that spirit. He contrasted our collective experience with the inhumanity of government power that destroys its challengers and equated the fight to free Julian Assange with the fight for our humanity.
Examples of State power and inhumanity exposed by Julian included the death, destruction and devastation from dirty wars, murderous sanctions and corruption subordinating the people to power and profit that deprive civilian populations of basic needs and freedoms. The list of unjust abuses included policies from mass surveillance to torture and likened hegemonic view of power to Mafia Dons that sees the global population as a source of exploitation to be controlled with coercion and violence.
Aaron emphasized the mechanisms and conflict, “In nominally democratic societies our rulers must also invent malicious lies and sophisticated propaganda campaigns to manufacture the consent of the domestic populations who foot the bill. In Julian Assange you have the best of what humanity is capable of, someone who has devoted his life to exposing these crimes and the lies used to wage them. We know Julian’s famous saying, if wars can be started with lies, peace can be started with truth.“
He added examples of inhumanity Julian exposed and its impact on people around the globe and Julian’s courage as an example to inspire us. “Julian’s commitment to truth and our collective humanity is so strong he has risked his own life to save the lives of others and expose those who treat them with reckless contempt. Because of Julian’s unflinching integrity the worst forces of humanity have used their power, corruption and deceit to silence him.“
Aaron Maté concluded with a condemnation of corporate media and progressive outlets doing the bidding of Julian’s tormentors, parroting unfounded claims while ignoring documented evidence of crimes and abuses. “In defending Julian’s life we are not just defending a noble human being, but someone who stirs in all of us the very best of our humanity that prioritizes human life above profit and power and one that sees truth as an inherent value and right not something to be silenced. We are defending ourselves against those who prioritize power and profit“
Roger Waters showed his exceptional patience and good nature before the event even began as he signed autographs for a mob gathered outside with albums and guitars. His gentle, soft spoken demeanor contrasts with plucky irreverence for the powerful.
After compliments to his fellow panelists Roger began by referring to his notes, “Let us not forget Madeline f*cking Albright and her famous saying about the 500,000 children who died after the sanctions and before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and how in her opinion it was a price worth paying. So thank you Madeline for the kind words“
Roger recalled marching from the Australian Embassy to Parliament Square in London with Craig Murray who is currently facing political persecution. He named the journalists killed in the Collateral Murder video made public by Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks adding, “If Julian Assange is in prison for publishing that video I should be in prison too because we showed that video every single night of my world tour from 2010 to 2013“ then mocked the absurd media smears of Julian.
He profiled the qualities and process for selecting a moron like BoJo - Boris Johnson to serve as Prime Minister followed by a spoof of BoJo’s service to the American empire in a message relayed to BoJo. “Washington is calling. What do they want? They want to lock up this Assange chap. Why what’s he done? I’m quoting Washington Sir, tell that little prick Johnson, not that its any of his business, that Assange keeps publishing inconvenient truths about US war crimes. We can’t have that. Lock him up and throw away the key. Shouldn’t we have a trial? Okay but no jury or all that Magna Carta nonsense. Give the case to Vanessa Baraitser, not very bright but very biddable.“
Roger apologized for making a joke of this tragedy while noting how everything about Julian’s prosecution is a cruel joke to protect war crimes and abuses of power while criminalizing journalism, vilifying truth tellers and mocking a system of justice. He thanked the Shiptons for inviting him to participate in the #HomeRun4Julian tour. Recalling the 2019 rally in Parliament Square where Roger played the iconic Pink Floyd song Wish You Were Here in Julian’s honor.
He ended with, “I could stand here all day railing against the dying of the light should we not stand bulldog like with arms linked, ranks closed in front of our brothers and comrade Julian Assange. When the lackeys of the American empire come to take him, to destroy him and hang him in the hedge as a warning to frighten future journalists, we will look them in the eye and steadfast with one voice we will intone, over my dead f*cking body.“ On that note Roger left the podium to enormous applause.
Julian’s father, John Shipton has a palpable aura of kindness around him that adds a surreal quality akin to standing in sunshine, but emanating from every fiber of the man. This energy transcends normal personal encounters and even the photos of John hint at the glow that comes from an incredible spirit we see in Julian’s humanity too.
John spoke of the irony of their #HomeRun4Julian tour when the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is envied by freedom loving people around the world and the family of a US political prisoner advocating for the 1st Amendment to people across America.
He focused on the positive impacts leaks can have with examples from the battle front to GITMO torture and CIA black sites. “In 2006 soldiers murdered an entire family in Baghdad, the children, mom, dad, sisters, brothers and grandparents. Contemplating their war crimes they called in an air strike that obliterated the evidence. When WikiLeaks published the cables the Iraqi Parliament read them and found the courage to refuse to renew the Status of Forces Agreement. As a consequence the United States had to remove its troops from Iraq along with its allies including Australia.”
John continued, “Leaks can stop wars. Leaks can bring justice.“ He cited the efforts of UK human rights attorney, Clive Stafford Smith who co-founded Reprieve to free prisoners held without charges in GITMO and find the families of those who were disappeared into CIA black sites. Clive has freed 69 prisoners with 15 cases ongoing.
John spoke about WikiLeaks exposing Trafigura dumping toxic e-waste off the coast of Africa. Despite censorship of the story in Western media the source documents enabled the people in affected villages to take their case to International Court.
Next was the case of Chagos Islanders removed from their ancestral lands to facilitate an American military base in the Indian Ocean. This was an historic turning point that gave a traditionally poor and powerless population the opportunity to challenge the mightiest nations on the planet with a case heard by the International Court of Justice. The Chagos Islanders won their case and subsequent appeal by the UK government.
As a final tribute to the good that flows from the quest for truth John described the efforts of WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson who traveled to war torn Iraq in a search for victims to honor and remember them by finding the names of the dead. John’s conclusion spurred a standing ovation with chants of “Free Julian Assange.“
As the program shifted to concluding Q&A for the audience, Roger Waters shared some personal news to energize the crowd as he waved a stack of papers. “This arrived to me on the Internet this morning. It’s a request for the rights to use my song Another Break In The Wall 2 in the making of a film to promote Instagram. It’s a missive from Mount Zuckerberg to me with an offer of a huge, huge amount of money and the answer is, F*CK you. No f*cking way. I only mention that because it’s the insidious movement to take over absolutely everything. Those of us who do have any power and I do have a little bit, I will not be a party to this bullsh*t Zuckerberg.“ Roger Waters has a powerful voice but together our voices have the power to do even more.
Since Julian was ripped from London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in 2019 #FreeAssange supporters in New York City have stepped up support campaigns for Julian’s freedom. Rush hour vigils have been held every Thursday from 4-6pm at high traffic venues including UK Consulate, The NY Times and Grand Central Station.
There have been rallies, press conferences, live stream and education events including thousands across the city. Groups protest in Union Square, Washington Square and Central Park. “Jailed for exposing war crimes“ stickers dot sign posts and subways calling for DoJ to Drop The Charges. We can only be heard if we all raise our voices so join the most important fight of our lifetime and help Free Julian Assange together.