By Cris Mann
Gabriel Shipton from London (brother of Julian Assange), and Halo Benson from the
Assange Solidarity coalition from Tulsa, OK, addressed a meeting in KC MO of about 40
persons Oct. 22.
Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison pending a trial where he could be
expedited to the United States for charges of treason under the Espionage Act. Assange,
an Australian citizen, is the publisher of WikiLeaks, a massive collection including secret
and classified documents that were sent to Assange to be published. The events
described in the releases are undisputed and have actually happened.
A 38-minute video, “War on Journalism,” preceded the speakers. This documentary
chronicled the journalistic life of Julian Assange and issues surrounding his decision to
publish documents pertaining to the war in Iraq, inside files relating to Democratic Party
decisions to keep Bernie Sanders from running for president, and files which revealed
that Russia did not interfere with US elections.
Shipton described Julian Assange’s imprisonment as being important to press freedoms and the First Amendment. Many others expressed agreement with his statement. Shipton also updated the audience about Julian’s health by saying that Assange’s
reputation, freedom and human dignity have taken a great toll. Shipton stated, “Julian has basically been crushed from the inside out.”
Additionally, Shipton pointed out the benefits of the public knowing about the actions of their own government. One of the pages of WikiLeaks revealed a cable which told of a family of seven who had been handcuffed and then shot (executed) when the Iraq War was being fought. Their house was then bombed as if to say they died from the bombing. Iraqi government officials, after reading this account contained in Wikileaks, signed documents asking the US to leave Iraq. “WikiLeaks,” Shipton said, “in this case,
prevented more war and destruction.”
Benson optimistically stated that the number of people at solidarity meetings has grown. She urged the audience to send postcards to our Missouri and Kansas legislators (Cleaver and Davids) asking for Assange not to be extradited to the US. In the lobby, Benson set up a well-attended literature table which was busy with attendees signing
cards and taking literature for Assange’s release.
The Q and A session at the event was conducted by longtime radio, civil liberties and labor rights defender Judy Ancel. Ancel taught Labor Studies at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, until she retired. Discourse was both engaging and reflective.
In my “welcome” at the Oct. 22 event at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in KCMO, I said one of the last messages Daniel Ellsberg wrote before he died was about Assange. Ellsberg risked his own freedom so bravely in 1971 with his revelations about the Vietnam war, and Ellsberg was one of Assange’s most vocal supporters, not least because he identified with what Assange had done to expose what had been happening in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ellsberg argued that if the case against Assange went ahead, “any journalist anywhere in the world could now be extradited to the US for exposing information classified in the US.” I added that Assange himself said, “One of
the best ways to achieve justice is to expose injustice.”
Following the Q and A, tabling organizations addressed the audience about their group and expressed solidarity with the effort to free Julian Assange. Organizations included: Citizens for Justice in the Middle East, Veterans for Peace, The Innocence Project, Kansas Libertarian Party, PeaceWorks KC, MoPeace Street Theatre, and CODEPINK KC. After the meeting, Margot Patterson of CODEPINK KC reflected, “The US sees Julian as an assault on the state. The Eastern District Court of Virginia is called the espionage district. There is no way for Julian to get a fair trial there, and that district was picked deliberately.” Patterson added, “Julian is being held in Belmarsh prison in maximum security solely in relation to the extradition request. Most leaders in South America have called on the US to drop its charges against Julian. So has the Australian government.”
—Cris Mann chairs the PeaceWorks KC Board and is a member of Greens KC. © 2023 Cris Mann, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.