Activists Demand Release of Imprisoned WikiLeaks Publisher Julian Assange
Washington, D.C. – Businessman Ben Cohen and a group of CodePink activists gathered outside the US Department of Justice (DOJ) on Thursday to demand the release of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange from a British jail. The activists believe that Assange’s imprisonment threatens the freedom of the press and the accountability of the government.
In a passionate speech, Cohen declared, “Unless things change, and unless we change them, freedom of the press is going up in smoke.” He symbolically set fire to a prop labeled ‘The Bill of Rights’ to emphasize the urgency of the situation. Cohen emphasized that democracy cannot exist without the freedom of the press, which plays a vital role in holding the government accountable.
Cohen sought to meet with Attorney General Merrick Garland to discuss Assange’s ongoing imprisonment. However, when he was informed that he did not have an appointment, Cohen and his fellow activists staged a sit-in at the entrance of the DOJ building, refusing to leave. As a result, all of them were arrested by the Homeland Security police.
During the protest, a billboard featuring a quote from Assange stating, “Censorship is for losers,” was mounted on a truck parked outside the DOJ building. The activists used this visual to amplify their message and draw attention to the importance of protecting freedom of the press.
Julian Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since April 2019. He sought refuge in the embassy of Ecuador for almost seven years to avoid what he called “trumped-up” charges in Sweden, which he believed were a pretext for the United States’ persecution. However, Ecuador revoked his asylum under pressure from the US, leading to his current imprisonment.
The protesters highlight that the charges against Assange under the Espionage Act were recently unsealed in Washington. The charges are related to the 2010 publication of classified documents that exposed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, including the infamous ‘Collateral Murder’ video, which depicted the US military killing civilians. If extradited and convicted, Assange could face up to 175 years in prison.
The movement to release Assange has gained support from various foreign leaders, media figures, and even some prominent members of the ruling Democrats. They have called on US President Joe Biden to drop the charges against Assange. However, despite these pleas, the Biden administration has yet to take action.
Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, has a long history of social activism, with social justice being one of the key values of his company. Although Cohen resigned as CEO in 1996, he has remained involved in progressive causes and has continued to support the Democratic Party through donations.
The activists’ demands for Assange’s release highlight the critical role of a free press in maintaining a functioning democracy and holding governments accountable. As the protest continues, activists hope that their message reaches policymakers and prompts them to reconsider Assange’s imprisonment.