Wikileaks: Australians mobilise to defend free speech

December 13, 2010 -- Rallies and marches have been held across Australia, on December 9-12 and with more scheduled, to protest against the persecution of the whistleblower website Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

In Brisbane, rallies of around 400 people were held on successive days, on December 9 and 10. Speakers at the December 10 rally included Greens representative Andrew Bartlett, Socialist Alliance member and radical academic Gary McLennan, the lawyer for victimised Indian Doctor Mohamed Haneef, Sri Lankan campaigner for Tamil rights Dr Brian Senewiratne, Pro-Choice women's rights activist Kathy Newnam, anti-war veterans' organisation Steadfast spokesperson Hamish Chitts and Socialist Alliance co-convenor Jim McIlroy.

Green Left Weekly co-editor Simon Butler addresses the December 10, 2010, rally in Sydney.

In Sydney on December 10, up to 1500 people rallied in Sydney's Town Hall Square. Speakers included independent journalist Antony Loewenstein, Greens senator Lee Rhiannon, Greens NSW upper house candidate David Shoebridge, Green Left Weekly co-editor Simon Butler, Pirate Party representative Simon Frew and the editor of Wikileaks Central.

About 1500 people rallied and marched around Melbourne CBD on December 10 in support of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange (photo slideshow above). The marchers did a sit-down in Latrobe Street.

In Adelaide, around 500 people rallied on December 12. Protests were also held in Perth and Hobart.

Socialist Alliance's Renfrey Clarke addresses the December 12, 2010, rally in Adelaide.

Pilger backs Wikileaks protests

Award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger is actively supporting the international campaign in defence of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.

Statement released by organisers of the Sydney rally to defend Wikileaks on December 10 at Sydney Town Hall. For more information, visit or email

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Renowned independent journalist and filmmaker John Pilger has offered his support for the protest organised by supporters of Wikileaks on Friday, December 10 at 1pm at Sydney Town Hall.

In a message to rally organisers, John Pilger said: “The defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is one of the most important issues of my lifetime. There are now two superpowers in the world — the military power of Washington and the power of public opinion and justice, which Wikileaks represents.

“If the Australian prime minister doesn't understand this, we Australians need to remind her that she may head a mercenary government but we are not a mercenary people.

“Those of us in London who are working to free Julian, knowing that the Swedish prosecution is a political stunt that would never produce a fair trial, will be at his side, and we call on the support of every decent Australian.”

Noam Chomsky backs Wikileaks protests in Australia

Noam Chomsky.
December 10, 2010 -- Noam Chomsky, renowned academic, author and critic of US imperialism, has offered his support to protesters across Australia planning to take to the streets in defence of Wikileaks.

In a message to the rallies, Chomsky said: “Julian Assange is performing his civic duties, courageously and honorably. Naturally, systems of power wish to protect themselves from citizens — while at the same time sparing no effort to intrude into private lives so as better to establish their control.

“Defense against these practices should be a primary concern for those who value freedom and democracy.”

Chomsky joins award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, who has also offered his support to the Australian protesters in a statement. Pilger said: “The defence of Julian Assange and Wikileaks is one of the most important issues of my lifetime. There are now two superpowers in the world — the military power of Washington and the power of public opinion and justice, which Wikileaks represents.

“If the Australian prime minister doesn't understand this, we Australians need to remind her that she may head a mercenary government but we are not a mercenary people.

“Those of us in London who are working to free Julian, knowing that the Swedish prosecution is a political stunt that would never produce a fair trial, will be at his side, and we call on the support of every decent Australian.”

The first of the national protests took place in Brisbane on the evening of December 9. More than 300 people took to the streets in support of Wikileaks. A further protest in Brisbane will take place at midday on December 10, as well as protests on December 10 and beyond in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth.


PRESS RELEASE: Australians in London Demand the Immediate Release of WikiLeaks founder

DATE December 13th. 2010

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release, No embargo

Australians in London Demand the Immediate Release of WikiLeaks founder

Letter from "Australians for the Immediate Release of Julian Assange" to the Australian High Commissioner attached to this press release.

On Monday 13th December at 4.30 pm, concerned Australian academics, artists, activists and expats will deliver a letter of demands to the Australian High Commissioner calling for the Embassy to be proactive in securing the immediate release from custody of fellow Australian citizen and founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange. The letter has been signed by celebrated journalist John Pilger, Australian born human rights activist Peter Tatchell and a growing number of Bristish based Australians outraged with the persecution of the WikiLeaks founder. Assange is presently held in London's Wandsworth Prison having been denied bail at an intial hearing at Westminister Court last week. The group, called "Australians for the Immediate Release of Julian Assange", will hold a vigil outside the Australia House on the Strand on the eve of Mr. Assange's next bail appearance, which will take place on Tuesday 14th December.

The group believes that the refusal refusal to grant bail to Mr. Assange is unjust and unwarranted'. 'They argue that this denial of bail and present imprisonment of the WikiLeaks founder are politically driven by forces with which the Australian government are in connivance. They believe the actions of the Australian government and embassy in relation to Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, amount to a dereliction of duty. They are also demanding that the Australian government immediately cease co-operation in the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

A spokesperson for the group, veteran Australain anti-war activist Ciaron O'Reilly, stated:

"Many of us share Julian's background of being raised in the authoritarian state of Queensland where civil liberties were denied as matter of course. This formative experience shaped Julian in terms of his passion for free speech as it shaped us before him. Others of us are dismayed that, like Vietnam and Iraq, the present Australian government has followed the United States into another immoral, illegal and unwinnable war in Afghanistan. Julian's work with WikiLeaks has been courageous and revelatory. He's in that jail for us and we're out on the streets for him! We need to free him and bring this war and invasion of Afghanistan to an end!"

For more info contact: Ciaron O'Reilly Mobile 079 392 905 76
(outside the UK) +44 79 392 905 76 Landline 0208 348 8212
(outside the UK) +44 208 348 8212

NSW police say no to free speech rally on technical grounds

Organisers say 'defend Wikileaks and Julian Assange rally' will proceed
Rally Tues Dec 14, 5.30pm
Sydney Town Hall

Organisers of the defend Wikileaks rally have expressed dismay that the NSW Police has just sent them a letter saying that they have not been given permission to hold the assembly.

The NSW police stated that, as notice was not given seven days in advance, the rally cannot go ahead.

This afternoon's rally was called after a huge crowd showed up to a lunchtime rally to defend Wikileaks on Friday December 10.

Today's rally was called to coincide with the decision by the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Julian Assange’s bail application.

Demonstrations are expected across the world.

"Millions of people are outraged at the PM's efforts to demonise Wikileaks and Julian Assange for releasing cables relating to foreign policy, among other things, that we have a right to know about", said
Antony Loewenstein, spokesperson for the group.

"Now, on a technicality, the NSW police say that we are not allowed to assemble.

"This is a direct attack on our right to free speech.

"This rally will be peaceful: we intend to deliver a message to the PM and her government that Julian Assange must be afforded all legal rights and released from custody.

"The public has a right to know why we are in Afghanistan, why we support Israel, how the US views us and which ministers are relying information to Washington."

Media contacts:

Antony Loewenstein 0402 893 690
Amy Thomas 0430 554 263
Kiraz Janicke 0448 818 278
Patrick Langosch 0422 028 113

Made with Slideshow Embed Tool

December 14, 2010 -- On the eve of Julian Assange's bail hearing in the UK, around 600 people protested PM Julia Gillard's efforts to demonise him and Wikileaks for releasing cables relating to foreign policy, among other thing.

The rally heard from various speakers and voted to march to the US consulate. When the NSW Police tried to block it, protesters, in good spirits, took to the footpath chanting, "Who's streets? Our streets!" The police arrested four people who were later released without charge.

December 14, 2010 -- Sydney Town Hall -- Protests were held at what they see as the persecution of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and at their own governments complicity in it. One of several rallies around the country held that day.

Special thanks to Kate Ausburn ( for allowing me to use some of her footage (the cops going mental at the start).

Everything else was filmed by me, Austin G. Mackell. Check out my awesome blog at


Posted By Antony Loewenstein On 14 December 2010 

Today’s rally for Wikileaks in Sydney was a success, apart from the excessively brutal police force seemingly determined to not allow citizens the right to protest in the streets.

Before the event itself, the Sydney Morning Herald reported under the misleading headline, “We’ll march anyway; Wikileaks protesters to defy police [1]” – suggesting the police were completely correct to oppose the holding of the event – and the story included this:

According to the Facebook page, the rally will be addressed by Mr [NSW Greens MP David] Shoebridge, independent journalist Wendy Bacon and author Antony Loewenstein.

Mr Loewenstein, a spokesman for the rally, accused police of having ulterior motives for denying the protest.

“We have been given the reasons [for denying the protest], yes, but we don’t accept them,” he said.

“We feel the real reasons [for police denying the protest] could be rather that they might be overwhelmed with the Oprah circus in town and they don’t want the embarrassment for the Gillard government while the international media is in town.

“We have a democratic right to protest and we will do so at Town Hall at 5.30pm today.”

Mr Loewenstein said the protest was planned to be peaceful, but could not rule out possible violence.

“Look, you know … it is planned to [be] a peaceful protest … but what they, the police do, well that’s up to them,” he said.

The rally took place (roughly 800 people attended), we all spoke and then the crowd wanted to march. A number of people tell me that the police were overly aggressive and keen to provoke the crowd. State-sponsored thugs, in reality [2]:

Protesters have clashed with police at a rally in central Sydney in support of the WikiLeaks website and its jailed founder Julian Assange.

About 70 officers, including mounted police and the riot squad, tried to keep the crowd of several hundred people on the footpath.

The protesters marched down busy George Street alongside a wall of police, chanting slogans and waving banners reading “Hands off WikiLeaks” and “We deserve the truth”.

But when some of them tried to run on to the road, police stepped in and made a number of arrests.

The crowd reacted angrily and continued to march to Martin Place, where another arrest was made.

Police allege one man punched an officer and three protesters tried to block traffic at an intersection.

The man has been charged with assaulting police and the trio have been released with a penalty notice.

Greens MP David Shoebridge, who was among the protesters, says police could have handled the situation better.

“There were two ways the police could have dealt with it,” he said.

“They could have worked with the organisers and there would have been a peaceful march to the consulate.

“The police refused to give permission to the organisers and instead there was a confrontation on the streets caused by that police intransigence.”

Police say the protesters were refused permission to march through the city because the mandatory five days’ notice was not given.

Inspector Chris Craner says police had a deal with the organisers that the protesters stick to the footpath.

“From the outset we’ve had a bit of non-compliance in relation to the issue of the scheduled one (march),” he said.

“We’ve been in negotiations with them, some of the organisers have been quite fine to talk to.

“There’s always a crowd of people who try and disrupt certain events. Some people are here purely for a peaceful protest which is what we’re happy with, we’ve facilitated that. Those that play up, end up being arrested.”

But activist Pip Hinman says the protesters staged a peaceful rally and did not disrupt peak-hour traffic.

“The police I saw were grabbing people from the footpath. They were pulling people onto the street. At the same time they let out their dogs from their vans and that’s where I saw a few people getting dragged away,” she said.

She says they were trying to send a message to Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“It was a message to Julia Gillard that Julian Assange is not a criminal,” she said.

“If any charges have been laid, he has a right to have them heard in a court of law and not be tried by governments and the media.”

Meanwhile, about 600 people protested in support of WikiLeaks in Melbourne, marching along Swanston Street to the British consulate.

Police say the protest was peaceful and no arrests were made.

Let’s not forget the main reason people are protesting. Defending Wikileaks and its right to publish important information for the public good.

Article printed from Antony Loewenstein:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] We’ll march anyway; Wikileaks protesters to defy police:

[2] State-sponsored thugs, in reality:


Another organiser, Kiraz Janicke ascended next, to say something that I cheered at. Something I think should be repeated again and again, as loudly and widely as possible. "People ask me why, as a feminist, are you coming out in support of Julian Assange who has been charged with rape in Sweden? Because this rally is not about that! It is about the right to a fair trial! ... We must never, never let them use our struggle against sexual assault for their struggle against freedom of speech!"

It's so fantastic to see so much support behind Julian Assange, especially in his homeland. It's a travesty how his name has been dragged through the mud recently for doing what is essentially his basic human right and the right of free speech. Keep up the protests, every little bit helps!