WestEndExtra

The independent London newspaper

Hardline on Assange protesters

08 October, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Police arresting an elderly man on Saturday at the protest in Piccadilly Circus over the trial of Julian Assange

A SMALL crowd protesting over the trial of journalist Julian Assange in Piccadilly Circus on Saturday – and they were not blocking traffic – was broken up by scores of police and an elderly man was arrested.

In fact only 18 protesters took part in the demonstra­tion – centred on Eros – and many of them were clearly elderly.

Movie footage online clearly shows the police in action as well as arguments by protesters, some of whom have previously demonstrated against Assange’s trial.

A protester with a loud speaker can be heard describing the event as an act of “tyranny” and “denial of free speech”.

Are the Coronavirus laws being used by the police – and not discouraged by the politicians – to prevent dissent?

An accusation was made by a human rights activist, Craig Murray, a former British diplomat, one-time British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was at the event, that this is how “a police state starts”.

He writes online that there could not be a “clearer example of ‘Covid legislation’ being used to crack down on unrelated, entirely peaceful political dissent”.

Who is Julian Assange? He is an Australian journalist who released thousands of documents and movie footage exposing US secret activities, some of which have been condemned as criminal. One piece of footage shows US helicopters gunning down and killing civilians, some of whom were journalists.

Faced with extradition to the US, Assange sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for several years.

He was ejected by the police last year and is now facing trial at the Old Bailey. If extradited to the US he could be imprisoned for many years.

The trial has been adjourned for submissions by counsel with a judgment expected in January, 2021. Meanwhile, he is being held at Belmarsh top security jail, practically in solitary confinement. All attempts to gain bail have been refused.

In an online statement that adds mystery to the event Mr Murray, who has written several books in recent years, described how he was questioned by police in Piccadilly Circus, asked when he was going back to Edinburgh, and how later, in the early hours at his four-star hotel, he was woken up by a member of the staff and asked again when he was checking out.

Afterwards, hotel staff said the incident was not “their fault”.

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