And six Oz parliamentarians set off to Washington to do just that.
It took off like wildfire. Last August 12th, a Julian Assange activist in Wellington (NZ) tweeted a call to stage sit-ins outside Australian embassies worldwide on or around September 3rd,, to urge the Australian government to be more resolute in demanding Assange’s release from Belmarsh prison in London. An activist in London echoed the call on a popular web talk show and activists in Rome, Italy, got an international press agency to publish the appeal. And then it happened.
In sixteen cities all over the planet – Sydney, Melbourne, Wellington, London, Brussels, The Hague, Paris, Rome, Milan, Madrid, Stockholm, Dublin, Toronto, Chicago, Tulsa, Mexico City – people gathered spontaneously outside their local Australian embassy or consulate, or some other edifice linked to Oz, on or around September 3rd to thank the Australian people for their massive support of their kinsman Julian and to urge the Oz government to listen to them and bring Julian back home.
September 3rd is Father’s Day in Australia and the sit-ins were also a reminder that Julian, as a father, has never seen his youngest children, aged 6 and 4, except as an infant or behind prison bars. The Father’s Day sit-ins are also a tribute to Julian’s father, John Shipton, who, although in his seventies, tirelessly globetrots to rally support for his son who awaits extradition to the United States and a possible sentence there of 175 years for revealing war crimes using classified documents.
French demonstrators for Assange gather near the Australian Embassy in Paris, 3 September 2023.
Photo courtesy of the Comité de soutien Assange.
In Paris, 60-odd French activists, representing 22 Free Assange groups all over France, braved the torrid heat to come to the Capital and demonstrate outside the Australian embassy (photo below). In their appeal, the French activists reminded Oz PM Anthony Albanese that, last December, he had commented on Julian’s judicial persecution with a pithy “Enough is enough”. “Now, nine months later,” the activists went on to say, “enough is more than enough;” Australia should use the leverage it has acquired vis-a-vis the United states “to demand Assange’s immediate release. If an Australian journalist publishing in Europe can be summarily arrested and subsequently judged by an American court, then no journalist anywhere in the world can be safe.”
At their sit-in, Boston activists reminded participants that the UK High Court is in recess until October 2nd. But shortly thereafter, the judges will announce whether they grant Assange a last chance to appeal extradition. That day is called “Day X” because if the request to appeal is rejected, Julian could be immediately put on a plane for the U.S. to face life in prison. The paperwork for the extradition has, in fact, already been prepared and signed: then Home Secretary Pritti Patel did so a year ago, on June 7th 2022.
In Milan, activists of the Committee for the Liberation of Julian Assange – Italy told a crowd of 120 supporters, gathered outside the Australian Consulate, that “the Assange case is a case of political persecution that has nothing to do with judicial questions, which are being used arbitrarily, thus creating a dangerous precedent for the rule of law.”
Activists outside Australia House, London, 2 September 2023.
Photo courtesy Team Assange London.
In Rome, Davide Dormino, the sculptor of the famous bronze statue “Anything to Say?” reproducing Assange alongside Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, spoke to almost a hundred activists outside the Australian Embassy there. “Like Prometheus, Julian Assange thwarted the power of the gods, made up of lies, by transforming those lies into truths accessible to us all – and now he is paying for it,” Dormino said. “But it will not be a court of law that saves Julian,” he added. “His imprisonment is political and therefore can be terminated only if all of us here, as well as in so many other cities around the world today, continue to demonstrate.”
In the British Capital, a dozen demonstrators from Team Assange London gathered on the Strand outside Australia House to chant “Albo [Albanese] keep your election promise! Free Assange!” (photo below).
Davide Dormino addresses the crowd outside the Australian Embassy in Rome Italy.
Photo courtesy Free Assange Roma.
As if spurred on by the multiple sit-ins worldwide, a delegation of Australian politicians from across the political spectrum will be travelling to Washington DC this month to urge US politicians and officials to abandon attempts to extradite Assange.
The cross-party delegation will include former Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals Leader Barnaby Joyce, Tony Zapia MP from Labor, Independent MP Monique Ryan, Alex Antic MP from the Liberals, Peter Whish-Wilson MP and David Shoebridge MP from the Greens. They will meet with members of Congress and the Senate, the US State Department, the Department of Justice, as well as key think-tanks and NGOs including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.
Gabriel Shipton, Julian’s brother who will accompany the parliamentarians, said: “Australians see the US as our closest ally and many take pride in the close relationship our two countries enjoy. But right now, Julian is being held hostage by a vengeful US administration and it’s damaging US/Australian relations.”
In addition, observed the parliamentarians, persecuting Julian Assange gives rival States such as China and Russia, decried in the West for persecuting journalists, the opportunity to claim that the U.S. does exactly the same thing. A blow to its reputation that the U.S. government should be keen to avoid by dropping its extradition bid.