No matter where Julian Assange travels to, he will continue to be considered one of the greatest targets of the United States government. The Wikileaks creator has found refuge in countries across the world as he battles the constant threat of persecution. Movements across the United States have grown in support for Assange as the government continues to battle with foreign entities to release him. His supporters view him as a hero who put his life on the line to expose the wrong doings of international governments. As written in the piece Julian Assange has won a significant victory. We should consider what it really means by Patrick Cockburn, “…the willingness of the media to stand to one side during one of the greatest attacks on press freedom in modern history”. The United States government is choosing to wage a war against democracy and attacking an individual who used his First Amendment rights as they were intended.
On October 11, 2021 a project by the Courage Foundation called the Assange Defense scheduled The Rally for Assange. This event took place in the Boston Commons, beginning at the entrance to the Park Street MBTA Terminal. The rally was for those who support Julian Assange and the work he has done. Its main focus was to demand for the United States to drop their charges against him. I spoke to many who attended the event including Stephanie Halley, a local in the area. I asked her why she felt as though Assange was not a terrorist but instead someone who called for the truth. This question is crucial to the debate about Assange’s actions and if he deserves to be brought to trial by the United States. She responded by stating, “Governments hide atrocities from their citizens; Assange wanted to change that. The leaks spread through his website helped to bring them to the public eye.” She also highlighted the video released in 2010 by Wikileaks of American troops in Iraq gunning down innocent civilians from their helicopter. She said this changed her opinion on the United States and wanted events like this to be uncovered.
The rally also was used to gather signatures for petitions and letters to congress. This seemed to be one of the main priorities of the day as these would help to express the pubic opinion surrounding Assange. This group is active around the country and their hope is to bring attention to the entirety of congress and United States attorney generals office. The group is very confident they will be able to do so but faces time restraints as Assange’s hearing is scheduled to occur on October 27, 2021. The mounting pubic pressure that is brought to the attention of elected officials could have the affect that the group is looking for. They understand that democracy is under attack and know that the time is now to fight to uphold it.
The opposition to Assange view him as an asset to foreign interference and a direct threat to public order. This is most likely due to Wikileaks involvement in the 2016 election as collusion between the organization and Russia were thought to be an attack on the United States election integrity. A Republican lead committee found, “WikiLeaks played a key role in Russia’s effort to assist Republican Trump’s campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton and likely knew it was helping Russian intelligence, said the 966-page report”. While this interference is costly to the integrity of Assange and Wikileaks, it does not take away from the validity of the information that he has helped to spread to citizens around the world. The content is usually undisclosed, it is often information that could cause a strong uproar within the public. While it may be beneficial in the short term for the people not to know in order to prevent mass demonstrations, it needs to be exposed to hold those in power accountable for their anti-democratic actions.
Advocates of Assange understand the importance of his actions and their effect on freedom of speech. If he is brought back to the United States to stand trial, he will face a 175 year sentence for the disclosure of secret United States information and attempting to hack into government databases with the help of Chelsea Manning. Manning was found guilty of leaking sensitive information in 2006 and received 35 years in prison.
While his actions do go against current United States law, the information he was able to release proved of war crimes committed by the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq along with countless anti-democratic actions. These cannot be ignored as they themselves destroy the democracy the United States attempts to uphold. Protesters around the country such as the ones I spoke to understand this and know that it is within their power to make a difference. By finding Assange guilty and sentencing him, the United States is actively crippling its democracy and going further down its path towards an authoritarian government.
Chappell, B., & McCallister, D. (2017, May 17). Chelsea Manning, once sentenced to 35 years, walks free after 7 years. NPR. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/05/17/528731790/after-serving-7-years-of-a-35-year-sentence-chelsea-manning-to-walk-free.
Hosenball, M. (2020, August 18). Senate committee concludes Russia used Manafort, WikiLeaks to boost Trump in 2016. Reuters. Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-russia-senate/senate-committee-concludes-russia-used-manafort-wikileaks-to-boost-trump-in-2016-idUSKCN25E1US.
Cockburn, Patrick. (2021, January 5). Julian Assange has won a significant victory. We should consider what it really means. The Independent. Retrieved October 21, 2021, from https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/julian-assange-extradition-rejection-wikileaks-b1782138.html.
UK: High Court begins consideration of Assange extradition appeal: Reporters without borders. RSF. (2021, August 11). Retrieved October 17, 2021, from https://rsf.org/en/news/uk-high-court-begins-consideration-assange-extradition-appeal.
*Photo by Markus Spiske, “FREE ASSANGE. Urban street art with political sticker” (Unsplash), Creative Commons Zero License.