Demonstrators denounce the arrest of Julian Assange outside Belmarsh prison

Chris Williamson and demonstrators in support of Julian Assange outside Belmarsh prison
Mohamed Elmaazi

Dozens of people attended a demonstration to express solidarity with Julian Assange outside Belmarsh prison, on Sunday 14 April. The Canary attended the event, where participants expressed their outrage over the UK government’s prosecution and incarceration of Assange.

A ‘political prisoner’

The former MP George Galloway was among the speakers:

The Canary understands that Emmy Butlin of the Julian Assange Defence Campaign (JADC) co-organised the event with Naila Kauser, Charlotte Gracias, and Sheila Coombes.

One demonstrator, Cheryl, told The Canary that Assange is an “international and historical icon who has done nothing wrong but tell the truth”.

The world’s ‘most important journalist’

Chris Williamson MP told The Canary that he thinks many of his fellow MPs “lost sight of the bigger picture” regarding Assange. He said he came to:

show solidarity with Julian Assange who, in my opinion, is the most important journalist anywhere in the world at this moment in time.

Dozens of people gathered to show support for an event that organisers promoted on Friday afternoon, according to Gracias. Although Kauser lamented the lack of “social media famous socialists” to The Canary, who she said, “need to get their asses offline and their bodies out”. Sunday’s event followed a demo the day before organised by members of the JADC and supported by the World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party.

‘Dehumanising the detained’

On 13 April, The Canary spoke to Cerie Bullivant, a spokesperson for human rights group CAGE, who was held for seven months in Belmarsh prison.

Bullivant, who was at Belmarsh in 2007 before being “completely exonerated”, told The Canary:

Belmarsh, like much of our prison system, is built on dehumanising those detained. My time there involved being constantly moved cells, intrusive demeaning strip searches, sometimes multiple times in just a few hours. Due to government cuts, extreme violence is a normal occurrence. That a journalist has been put into this situation says a lot about our country at the moment.

Belmarsh Prison

Belmarsh is on average at 110% capacity and operates as a Category A “high security” prison. Assange has been convicted of “breaching his bail”. The Met Police “further arrested” him on behalf of the US:

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was “deeply concerned” about the arrest of Assange. But others went much further:

Award-winning investigative journalist John Pilger tweeted:

Daniel Ellsberg, the celebrated Pentagon Papers whistleblower, said:

The demonstration on Sunday made clear that there remains a broad coalition of people committed to Assange and the principles of speaking truth to power that he represents.

Featured image via Mohamed Elmaazi

We need your help ...

The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.

Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.

We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.

Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?

The Canary Support us