Today’s big rally for Wikileaks in Sydney (I think around 2000 people were there) saw a wide cross section of people outraged with the intimidation of Wikileaks and Julian Assange and the Gillard government’s capitulation to American demands. I spoke and chaired the event. This story appears in the Daily Telegraph:
Protestors today converged on Sydney’s town hall demanding that the Gillard government protect Australian-born Wikileaks frontman Julian Assange in the first offline mass action in the country since “cablegate” broke.
The message from the handful of speakers to the 1200-strong crowd, from Greens MPs through to an American businessman, was simple: the Australian government needs to do a better job in protecting citizens abroad and Wikileaks is critical for the democracy both here and internationally.
Independent journalist and author Antony Loewenstein said Prime Minister Julia Gillard had to condemn the death threats on Mr Assange’s life and should support the besieged whistleblower with as much government assistance as possible.
“We should not make the mistakes that we made with David Hicks and Mamdouh Habib,” Mr Loewenstein said today.
And he questioned just how much the Australian government is independent of the US after leaks this week revealed that Labor senator Mark Arbib was an American informant.
“Are we independent or are we a client state of the US?” he said to the cheers of the crowd.
Get Up’s Sam Mclean, one of a number of political groups represented in the crowd, said that in just 12 hours close to 50,000 people had donated a total of almost $250,000 to buy advertisements in the New York Times supporting Mr Assange.
“We want to make a statement to our allies in the States that the Australian people support Wikileaks,” Mr Mclean said.
“We are buying full-page ads in the New York Times because our government has failed to represent us.”
Former Get Up CEO Brett Solomon will appear on the Bill O’Reilly show today in the US taking Get Up’s message to conservative America, Mr Mclean said.
Greens senate-elect Lee Rhiannon said: “Right now our government should be celebrating the work of Julian Assange.”
But Ms Rhiannon said the government had instead engaged in sycophantic behaviour in claiming that Wikileaks had broken the law but could not say which laws had been broken.
“The government is big on sharing information on MySchool and MyHospital but not on My Government,” she said.
Melbourne-run website WL Central moderator Asher Wolf said recently the site had received 1.9 million hits per day as interest in the diplomatic cables had spiked.
However, she said that US government talk of listing Mr Assange and Wikileaks associates as terrorists was effectively a death threat against her and her colleagues.
During the speeches an elderly man made his way onto the town hall’s steps and held up a series of signs in support of free speech.
However, he drifted off topic with one anti-gay sign sparking an angry response from one member of the crowd who tore the placard off him and tore it up.