By Max Reed
On October 8th, 2022 protestors and activists in DC and across the world marched for the freedom of Julian Assange, a world-famous journalist, activist, and the founder of Wikileaks. Julian Assange (a non-US citizen) is being prosecuted under the Espionage Act for publishing US war crimes and abuses of the Constitution by clandestine security agencies. The Espionage Act was passed in 1917 to persecute anti-war voices in America. Its first victims were political activists such as Socialist Party Presidental candidate Eugene Debs and the Rosenbergs who were murdered during McCarthyism. The Espionage Act has also been used to target whistleblowers such as Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, and now Julian Assange.
The paradox of this monstrous attack on our civil liberties is that Julian Assange isn’t a US citizen, he is an Australian, who is currently held in the notorious British Belmarsh prison. Assange has been held for years in solitary confinement, has suffered from a stroke, and currently has Covid-19. The US government is prosecuting Assange, not for any crimes (which he would not be liable for as a non-US citizen) but rather for his activism and exposure of US war crimes in Iraq. Alongside this, Assange’s website Wikileaks exposed emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) which proved that the DNC not only favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders but in fact interfered directly in the Democratic Primary. This exposure deeply embarrassed the Democratic establishment and prompted the start of Russiagate.
In response to Assange’s activism, shrieks of “Russian interference”, “spying” and “treason” echoed throughout American political discourse. These shrieks have been heard before in America and have been thrown at some of the greatest Americans. Among these accused include civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Others include political activists such as Paul Robeson, William Z Foster, Gus Hall, and Lillian Helman. The Rosenbergs, after being convicted in a show trial, were sentenced to death on the basis of these accusations. Assange now stands as one of these esteemed individuals. Although not an American, Assange by exposing the crimes of the US government carries more the tradition of Americanism than the gangsters who pursue him.
It was on this basis, in defense of the American tradition and the Constitution, that thousands across America marched on October 8th for Julian Assange. A wide front of groups participated in this action led by “Action for Assange” organizer Misty Winston. From communists to libertarians, from conservatives to liberals, all were united on October 8th in the belief in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In DC, former Presidential candidates, journalists, veterans, political activists, preachers, and other exceptional Americans spoke in front of the Department of Justice. These individuals included Jill Stein, Spike Cohen, Scott Ritter, Chris Hedges, Garland Nixon, and Reverend Annie Chambers among others.
Representatives from Movement for Peoples Democracy and the American Student Union also attended this action for Julian Assange. The American Student Union and Movement for Peoples Democracy both support defending Julian Assange and all those who expose the crimes of the US government. The First Amendment is a fundamental civil liberty that progressives must defend at all costs. This involves organizing a broad coalition to protect this right of the people from reactionaries who seek to infringe upon the American working class. Julian Assange’s struggle for freedom is fundamentally an American struggle that all Americans regardless of political background should uphold.