Last Monday evening up to 1,000 people gathered in central London to hear internationally acclaimed musician Roger Waters (of Pink Floyd) deliver a musical tribute to imprisoned WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange. Waters performed outside the UK Home Office, just a few miles from the high security Belmarsh Prison where Julian is being held as a Category A prisoner, singing Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” written by him and David Gilmour in 1975. Veteran investigative journalist and film maker John Pilger delivered an impassioned speech and was joined by Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton. The event appears to have been the subject of a main-stream media blackout, except by the Morning Star and the television station RT. But it can be found on YouTube ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBBVCwBHC3M ).
As some of you may recall, the song is about Syd Barrett, the original lead and chief songwriter of Pink Floyd, who left the group in 1968 after his mental and physical health and reliabity deteriorated due to heavy drug use. A melancholy song and perhaps their saddest, the performance was well received by those who packed the forecourt and pavement on both sides of Marsham Street in Westminster, who cheered Roger and guitarist Andrew Fairweather Low who accompanied him.
The event was opened with an impassioned speech John Pilger. Pointing in the direction of the Home Office, Pilger told the crowd: “The behaviour of the British government towards Julian Assange is a disgrace. A profanity on the very notion of human rights. It’s no exaggeration to say that the treatment and persecution of Julian Assange is the way that dictatorships treat a political prisoner.”
Pilger said he had spoken with Assange over the weekend: “When I asked Julian what he would like me to say today, he was adamant. ‘Say it’s not just me. It’s much wider. It’s all of us. It’s all journalists and publishers who do their job who are in danger’.”
As John Pilger pointed out, Julian Assange is not a US citizen and Wikileaks is not a US publisher, yet Trump wants him silenced and punished for telling us just what is being done by governments in secret and in our name.
He concluded: “Seventeen out of the 18 charges that Julian faces in the US refer to the routine work of an investigative journalist, which is protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution…. The whole thing is a sham.
“That’s why Julian is locked up for 21 hours a day in a maximum-security prison and treated worse than a murderer. He is to be made an example of. What happens to Julian Assange and to Chelsea Manning is meant to intimidate us, to frighten us into silence.
“By defending Julian Assange, we defend our most sacred rights. Speak up now or wake up one morning to the silence of a new kind of tyranny. The choice is ours.”
Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton spoke, recounting his visit to Belmarsh Prison last month. “I hugged him, and he told me that this place he was in was hell. As Julian’s brother… I call on the UK home secretary to block extradition to the USA.”
With so much media attention focused on the continuing Brexit saga and their reluctance to highlight Julian Assange’s case as he languishes in jail for jumping bail, it’s a struggle to get coverage for the campaign in support of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning who is still in jail after refusing to testify before a US grand jury investigating Wikileaks.
The prospect of a general election in the next few weeks presents an opportunity to raise the demand against extradition and to put the political parties on the spot as to where they stand in this important struggle for journalists’ right to report and our right to know.
A fuller report of Monday’s event can be found on the World Socialist Web Site at: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/09/03/londs03.html?utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=emailutm_content=76481698_hsenc=p2ANqtz9E1tnjU5uqffSj2gVlpeJWzHZs4RhwVlDuQB83YDPsYW1giokYtOMmSKmS0DsaUE2bnFt9dtZJfkBdCT63agsX9qEBiV0FyZZxmdQFvzZtuQOGI&_hsmi=76481698