Last week, it was made public by Wikileaks that myself and four co-defendants in the Pitstop Ploughshares case were subject of secret cables from the U.S. embassy in Dublin. I saw an opportunity for a media intevention to raise the profile of imprisoned 22 year old U.S. soldier/war resister Bradley Manning.
I put out a press release indicating, as someone reffered to in this wikileaked secret U.S. cables, I was open for interview or comment,
Ths effort resulted in no response from the highly centralised, self censoring, housebroken and cowardly Irish media. It resulted in two Australian radio interviews with hosts who had interviewed me in the lead up to the 3 Pitstop Ploughshares trials at the Dublin Four Courts.
Dec 2nd. 2010 - ABC Queensland Radio (13 mins)
Dec 6 2010 Radio Adelaide, South Australia (10 mins)
Where I really lucked out, and it made the effort worthwhile beyond an "A for effort" status, is that Worcesetr. Mass, USA based Catholic Worker journalist Clare Schaeffer-Duffy picked up the story and ran with it getting an article published in the U.S. National Catholic Reporter. The article published Bradley Manning's redirection prison address to a high quality target audience.
I had been concerned for Manning since his original military detention in Iraq and subsequent transfer to isolation at the Quantico Base in Virginia. I became more concerned when I attended a "Stop the War Coalition" (StWC) meeting in Conway Hall/ London promoted as celebrating the recent release of Biritsh military resister Joe Glenton. Coincidently, the evening meeting occured on the day the first Wikileaks occured. Every speaker celebrated the Wikileaks and no metion of the guy who was banged up for it!. I became increasingly distressed as the meeting rolled on with no mention of the imprisoned Bradley Manning. The Speakers platform was, as per usual, dominated by British Labor Party (weren't they just running the war until a few months ago?), NGO, Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and recently expelled SWP members ("Counterfire").
Joe Glenton's late arrival lifted the spirits and I looked forward to question time when I could raise the name of Bradley Manning for the first time that evening. There was to be no questiion time as the StWC bureaucrats had an agenda to use the meeting as a base to organise promotion of their Nov 20 mobiilsation. Attract a crowd with Glenton and subcontract the N20 prmotions seemed to be the strategy of the night! The crowd were the hardcore converted who have many of their own political organising priorities. The StWC bureaucrats treated us as neophytes, not allowing question time and trying to divide the hall into north, south, east and west London sections to distribute promotional propoganda for their N20 event. Most of us had been through this scam before and wandered out of the hall. In retrospect, I should have started soap box speaking outsde the hall about Manning.
It further distressed me to learn that the FBI had arrived at a terraced house in Haverford-west/ Wales to harrass Bradley Manning Welsh Catholic mother Susan........
........"Susan Manning's sister, Sharon Staples has described how "these guys in dark suits" - who she took to be FBI officers questioned her sister who has been in and out of hospital after a series of strokes" (Guardian Dec 1st. 2010)
I spammed out about Manning to my 500+ list providing his website and a postal address where letters and postcards could be sent and redirected to Bradley in military detention.......
c/o Courage to Resist
484 Lake Park Ave. #41
Oakland, CA 94610
I contacted some Californian friends, who had attended our first Pitsop Ploughshares/Dublin trial with their four children, and asked them if they could buy me a 3XL "Free Bradley Manning" t-shirt..... they said no worries! My father R.I.P. was fond of saying "There's no harm in askin'" and that has been an organising prinipal for me for the last 30+ years of activism.
Steve, at the Catholic Worker (C.W.) in Norfolk Virginia, who recieved one of my emails, saw there was a demonstration the next day outside of the nearby Quantico military base where Manning is being detained. Steve whipped up a sign, dropped into the demonstration on his way to a C.W. gathering in D.C. and ended up pictured on page 3 of the New York Times and on CNN! How random is that?
Here's Steve on CNN holding the "Thank You PFC Manning" placard.......
On the Nov. 20th., I made up a sign asking folks to write to Bradley Manning
and headed in to the aforementioned StWC rally in downtown London.
As the marchers assembled in Hyde Park, I circulated with my sign, making short speeches about Manning and having longer follow up conversations with people who were interested. I had done a similar exercise for the"Raytheon 9" at a similar march when there forthcoming trial was censored by the StWC.
As the march began to move, I ran to the front of it stood up high on a ledge to the side of the march and made sure everyone who marched by saw the name of Bradley Manning. Only a couple were familiar with the name and the case from a crowd of 5,000+...one guy had sent money to Manning's family. I hoped this visibility would lead to follow up conversations a the rally at the end of the march in Trafalger Square.
The march was like the march of a defeated army, little spark about it, not much annoying chanting even, it was like going through the motions. Many of the speakers on the closed platform didn't depart from the speeches they had wirtten for a much larger crowd, which made it even more sad and surreal.
Yesterday (Dec 7th. 1010), I was part of a Catholic Worker/ Plowshares vigil at the U.S. embassy in London in soldiarity with five of our people on their first day of trial in Tacoma, Washington USA for a plowshares action at the Trident Nuclear Submarine base.
During the freezing 11 am - 1 pm vigil, I received a text that Julian Assange had appeared at a police station (in Kentish Town/London) and had been taken into custody pending a bail hearing later in the day. Reading The Guardian on the tube to the U.S. Embassy, I discovered that Assange hoped to appear voluntarily and be awarded bail conditions.
After our vigil we went to have a coffee. I received another text saying Assange was now going to appear in the downtown Westminister courts on Horseferry (WTFIT?) Rd. Bejaysus! I started feeling all State-of-Origin and thinking that Queenslander in trouble needs me to go to stand outside this court asap.
I got some general directions from those at the cafe, dumped my excess anti-Trident related placards on Dan and ran off to Bond St. tube, texting folks for directions from Westminister tube to the court once I surfaced. Got off tube and started running in what I thought was the general direction, asking a few folks I judged could cope with a large dreadlocked man invading their space. I'm not the human compass type! I'm good at asking for directions, but hopeless at listening to the answers, I'm a little deaf and all these weird English accents don't help none.
I finally found Hoseferry Rd. and sprinted up toward the court entrance. there were 80+ folks crammed in a circle around the entrance. I didn't know how much time I had. I asked a bloke what the state of play was,? He replied that Assange was still in the court!
So I caught my breath, licked my lips and started street speaking - a skill well honed in the Brisbane Mall free speech campaign of the early '80's
and ressurected more recently in Dublin's Temple Bar free speech campaign.
I spoke about how we (Pitstop Ploughshares/ Shannon 5) were the subject of secret U.S. embassy cables now exposed by wikileaks, that this arrest of Assange is politically motivated, the ongoing neverending war etc. After a while I realised that most of my audience were bearing microphones and cameras and this indeed was the world's press. There seemed to be about 5 people holding A4 signs in the crowd.
One eccentric foreign gentleman tried to get me to shut up.
"Don't know where you're from mate! But like Julian, I'm from Queensland, Australia and we take our free speech very seriously - because we had to fight for it!"
That seemed to shut him up.
So after a reassessment of the situation, I decided to get up high and see what was going on. I got up on this outside window ledge, held my Bradley Manning sign and made sporadic speeches about the mainstream media's complicity in the war, commenting aloud during live broadcasts as they were happening and smoking a cigar to give me a lift, shoulda brought water tho!
After a while the word came out that Julian had been denied bail. I was completely outraged. The guy had self surrendered, his face is wallpaper over national media and police stations, what kind of flight risk does he constitute? This is a totally political driven decision in relation to bail.
In 1992 at the conclusion of my 12 month sentence in the U.S., I was charged in the (jointly run BOP/INS) Federal Prison in Louissianna with "overstaying a tourist visa" and "being guilty of a crime of moral turpitude" (the second charge, later dropped, had to do with my abusive, nonconsensual relationship with a B52 Bomber apparently!). The Feds put a huge $50,000 bail on me which is the same amount Sid Vicious got when he was accused of killing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen! It was 5-10 times higher than my fellow prisoners who had been caught with guns and drugs and were now facing immigration issues.
So the point I'm making is that - th nature of this bail decision on Julian, and that bail decision on moi 20 years ago, ARE POLITICALLY MOTIVATED AND DRIVEN! From my makeshift podium, I continued to share this perspective with my captive audience!
After a while, I recognised a familiar figure emerging from the court. It was filmmaker Ken Loach! Damien and I (PItstops) had met Ken and screen writer Paul Laverty in the lead up to the world premiere of "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" in Cork years before. As Ken did with us then, he was trying to do with Julian today, use his public profile to make it safer by association for activists under threat from the warmaking state
Ken is a small, getting elderley and quite a shy gentleman. The huge media pack pushed on to him. He looked startled if not fearful. At one point it looked like he had lost his footing and would go under to be trampled. This seemed to go on for some time. If we had any kind of anti-war movement in this country we would have a couple of youthful disciplined minders to get Ken outta there safely. Maybe we can borrow some from the "Nation of Islam" next time?
Next , the silvery mane of John Pilger appeared. He took the opportunity to address the media pack with clarity and dignity. On conclusion of a fine speech, he had trouble getting out too! But John Is much taller tthan Ken, which means you've got a better chance to work out where you should be going in crowds. I also imagine, John has a lot of experience trying to get to the bar in Australain pubs where a more liberal attitufde to the queue holds sway. John did ok, he got out of there alright.
Next up was Julian's lawyer who addressed the media very eloquently. Then there was a thunderous noise coming from out of sight around the corner. I thought "Finally, the Black Bloc have arrived like the cavalry! A little late...but the effort is appeciated!" Media started running toward the source of the noise. Cops started moving in that direction. Then I saw the Securior prison van. I was pretty stunned by the sight of it! What's Black Bloc doing driving a white van? It took me a while to realise this was indeed the prison van containing Julian Assange. Then I thought, I should go blockade that van! By the time I had safley negotiate descent from the ledge, the van was picking up speed. By the time I was running down the road after it , it was accelerating out of sight.
So Julian wakes up this morning on his first day in custody, Bradley Manning on his 196th.!These are presently the political prisoners of what is left of the anti-war movement. Men who have risked their lives and liberty getting the truth out and hoping maybe, just maybe, the truth would cause a debate in civil society and inspire resistance that would end this ten year/ "no end in sight" war?
Bradley and Julian have embraced the responsibility to speak truth to power and to whoever else chooses will listen. We have to emnbrace the responsibility to listen and see what their courage has revealed in these wikileaks.
If this is not going to be early days of the rest of Bradley and Julian's lives spent in custody, we will have to build an anti-war movement based on nonviolent resistance and solidarity. Which means, if you at any given point are not in jail or before the courts for resisting this war, your responsibility is to be in proactive solidarity with those who are. You don't have to like me, or them, personally! You don't have to have the same musical tastes, hairstyle, ethnicity or faith. We are building an inclusive movement based on nonviolence and direct democracy to challenge the power of the warmaking state - not a fashion statement, not a launcing pad for aspiring politician's careers not a recruiting ground or marketing opportunity for Trot, politcal or religious cults.
Hopefully in this article I, and others, have exhibited simple no budget solo ways to express solidarity with both military and civilian resisters. There are plenty more out there!