Photos and Report: The Phenomenal Success of the Human Chain for WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Around the UK Parliament


Campaigners for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Yesterday was a great day for activism, as at least 5,000 people turned up to form a Human Chain around Parliament for WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, who has been held in HMP Belmarsh for three and a half years, challenging his proposed extradition to the US to face espionage charges relating to his work publishing classified US government files leaked to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning.

As I arrived, just before the start time of 1pm, it was wonderful to see people lined up all along the front of the House of Parliament, and, as time passed and more people arrived, the line stretched south through Victoria Tower Gardens towards Lambeth Bridge, and across Westminster Bridge to the north, eventually completing the encirclement as people lined up by the Covid memorial wall on the south bank of the River Thames.

Although many organizations were involved — including numerous pro-Assange groups, and Amnesty International, who have an ongoing petition calling for the US government to drop the charges against Julian — this was primarily a protest by concerned individuals, not just from the UK, but also from across Europe, and from as far afield as Australia and New Zealand — who had all chosen to take part because of the huge threat to press freedom that Julian’s proposed extradition represents.

A campaigner for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).
Campaigners for Julian Assange forming part of the Human Chain around the House of Parliament on October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

After Chelsea Manning — then Pfc. Bradley Manning, working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq — became so appalled by what he was seeing in classified US government documents that he leaked that information to WikiLeaks, the organization worked with numerous media partners around the world to publish it.

The publication of these documents — the largest leak of classified government documents in US history — provided the world with previously hidden information that it was in our interest to know about — including 482,832 Army reports from the Afghan and Iraq wars, 251,287 US diplomatic cables from around the world, and classified military files relating to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay (on which I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner), as well as the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed US military personnel killing civilians from helicopters and laughing about it.

Chelsea Manning was arrested for the leak of these documents — and served seven years in prison as a result — but no one should be prosecuted for their publication, because one of the key elements that distinguishes supposedly ‘free’ societies from dictatorships is that the former occasionally get embarrassed — or even have significant wrongdoing exposed — by journalists and publishers working in the public interest, as is the case with the files leaked by Manning.

In addition, the US government’s decision to only pursue Julian for this “crime” of publishing is also monstrously hypocritical, because, if Julian is guilty of espionage, as the US alleges, then so too are all those media outlets who worked with him, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, many other newspapers throughout Europe — and me.

This shameful extradition request is both a vendetta against one man — Julian Assange — and an attempt to silence press freedom through intimidation. It must be resisted, and Julian must be freed, and yesterday’s action was a wonderful demonstration of how many ordinary people care — both about a man who sought to reveal the truth, and about our right to know more than what our governments choose to let us hear.

A cardboard stand-up figure of Julian Assange placed at the foot of the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

I spent some time walking along the line of protestors, taking photos, and then walked across Westminster Bridge, intending to follow the chain all along its route until I met an old friend and began chatting, and I was there as we all symbolically joined hands in support of Julian.

Afterwards, I joined a group of campaigners at a restaurant in Covent Garden, where we were joined by Stella Assange, Julian’s wife, who let us know how encouraged Julian was by the wonderful turnout. Significantly, other events took place around the world, including a Human Chain around the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. and another in Melbourne, in Julian’s home country of Australia.

Stella Assange speaks at a gathering of supporters after the success of the Human Chain around Parliament, October 8, 2022 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

In the UK, Julian’s long ordeal continues, as his lawyers have appealed against the failure of the courts to block his extradition, arguing that he is “being prosecuted and punished for his political opinions”, while, in the US, campaigners called on the Biden administration to drop the extradition request, and in Australia Julian’s brother Gabriel Shipton called on the new Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, to get on the phone to President Biden and to call for the charges to be dropped.

The struggle for justice for Julian continues, but no one should be in any doubt about the strength of feeling — and the support for him — around the world.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — continues.

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21 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, my report about — and my photos of — yesterday’s Human Chain for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, which involved the Houses of Parliament being completely encircled by campaigners calling for his extradition to the US to be dropped.

    Mainstream media coverage was poor, I’m sad to say, but it has been reported widely online, and it was wonderful to see how so many concerned individuals, not just in the UK, but from across Europe, and even from Australia and New Zealand, had travelled to London to show their support. In addition, the resonance of the action in London was echoed via other human chains in Washington, D.C. (crucially, around the Justice Department) and in Melbourne.

    It is surely beyond time for the Biden administration to work out that its punishment of Julian — fully supported by the British government — has gone on long enough. Prosecuting Julian remains as dangerous and deranged an idea as it always has, because, as I explain in my article, “one of the key elements that distinguishes supposedly ‘free’ societies from dictatorships is that the former occasionally get embarrassed — or even have significant wrongdoing exposed — by journalists and publishers working in the public interest.”

    If Julian is prosecuted, press freedom dies.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Andy! It’s always great to see and read your support for Julian.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Natalia – and, of course, for your tireless support of Julian’s cause.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Thank you, Andy! Imagine when we’ll see Guantanamo closed and Julian free!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I try to imagine that, Natalia!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    I cannot go to these occasions in person, I live a long way away and I’m about done for; but I write to Julian Assange, and at least let him know he is far from forgotten. I try to urge others to write, verbally and write to various people. I sometimes feel that the number, severity and magnitude of issues is growing.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Natalia Rivera Scott wrote:

    Writing to him is so important, Malcolm. Thank you for doing that!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, thank you very much for that encouragement to people to write to Julian, Malcolm.

    Details of how to write to Julian are here:

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul O’Hanlon wrote:

    Where oh where was the BBC? The Observer? The Times? ITV? The late great Danny Schechter called for a march on the media. They are simply not doing their job of informing the public. Or is their job to cover up the war crimes and misdemeanours of the ruling class?

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Where to begin, Paul? The mainstream media rarely recognise that protest is as valid a comment on democracy as elections, and for manipulation, how about the ten-day period of mourning for the Queen, regularly rehearsed since the 1960s, the general indifference to the climate crisis, or the suppression of anti-war opinions when it comes to the Ukraine conflict? There are all kinds of agenda and half-agendas, and positions taken by people with power and responsibility in the media – the co-called ‘liberal’ media, not the blatantly biased right-wing press – that are the very opposite of transparent. At least with Assange there’s a very vocal online presence, but some of the most important stories are almost entirely silenced.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul O’Hanlon wrote:

    There is lots of stuff about Julian online, Andy, but there are probably many people who have never heard of him. The media savagely smeared him as a sexual offender but that disappeared and there is now a media blackout on the case – omerta. We have to keep on trying of course but it isn’t going to be easy. Just compare Boris Johnson who told nothing but lies for 3 years and who will spend the rest of his life in 5 star luxury. Julian who told the truth could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re right, of course, that many people haven’t heard of him, but then we live in a time when ignorance is massively promoted by those in power, Paul. The sexual smears have indeed receded, but they, of course, follow the rule book for taking people down – which either involve allegations of sexual misconduct, or anti-semitism. Both are toxic, and apparently impossible to argue against once the allegations have been made.

    I still tend to think that Julian will eventually be freed – that this long extradition-related imprisonment has been conceived as his punishment – because it’s inconceivable to me that a prosecution case in the US would actually be successful. On the current trajectory, the appeals in Julian’s case, if eventually exhausted in the UK courts, will end up at the European Court of Human Rights, which will, I think, take a dim view of the US’s claims, but that’s still many, many years away, and Julian has to survive for all that time.

    I was glad to see a big turnout in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, because the extradition request can be dropped in a moment by Attorney General Merrick Garland – and President Biden – if they can be made to see sense. They both know that this is Trump’s prosecution, and that Obama recognised that it was fundamentally impossible to draw a line between Julian and WikiLeaks and press freedom as exercised by the mainstream media – as well as also realising that it involved crucial First Amendment issues – and they really ought to recognise that they don’t actually want their claims – which are both feeble and extraordinarily punitive – to be tested in a court of law.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Lindis Percy wrote:

    Washington, D.C. protest here:

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Lindis. It was wonderful to see such support in the US, where Merrick Garland really needs be made the subject of serious scrutiny when it comes to Julian’s case.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Fussy Pot Fiona wrote:

    Thank you Andy, for keeping Julian’s plight on the agenda, despite the pitiful efforts from msm.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Fussy Pot Fiona. Good to hear from you. At least in Julian’s case there is a significant online presence of campaign groups around the world working to get him freed – and people prepared to protest in public on a regular basis – unlike other topics that the mainstream media fails to give the prominence they deserve.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Meagan Murphy wrote:

    Free Julian Assange – we all had a right to know what every penny was funding the military for and then easily vote against it to stop. Instead it was all very covert and secretive and very mean as in serial killer mean.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Sadly, Meagan, both the Republicans and the Democrats are mired in the wrongdoing that Julian (working with the world’s media) exposed in 2010 and 2011, just as both the Republicans and the Democrats are committed to extraditing him to the US to face a mockery of justice. Biden and Merrick Garland need to wake up and distance themselves from a decision taken not by Obama, but by Donald Trump.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Paul O’Hanlon wrote:

    I hope you’re right about Julian eventually being freed, Andy. But can he survive this interminable extradition process? His health is poor and he has had a stroke in prison. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it down to London for Saturday (from Edinburgh) as I had a bout of gastroenteritis. It was heartening to see so many folk there even if the lamestream media ignored them.

    I used to be a frequent visitor to Parliament Square to see Brian Haw during his near 10 year vigil there. There was a media blackout over that as well though I managed to persuade the Independent to do an article on him entitled ‘The Lonely Life of Brian’ . He had a companion on the peace campaign called Barbara Tucker who came from Melbourne, Australia. She was arrested an astonishing 48 times during her 7 and a half years on the 24/7 campaign in Parliament Square. They once arrested her without a warrant which of course is illegal. Another time the cops tried to have her sectioned but with the help of her lawyer they backed down and let her go. Brian was quite a character – he once won the most inspiring political figure of the year on Channel 4 TV beating Tony Blair and David Cameron. I was really saddened by his death from cancer.

    We just have to keep on trying, what about that idea of a march on the media as advocated by Danny Schechter? Did you ever read his book ‘ The More You Watch the Less you Know’? It’s first-class stuff and there is a memorable scene when he confronts Henry Kissinger as to how he can justify the killing of six million people in South East Asia during the Vietnam War and its sideshow in Laos and Cambodia.

    I send Julian regular messages by emailaprisoner, I just hope the authorities don’t withhold his mail. Life seems so unjust at times with mass murderers like Tony Blair, George W Bush and Henry Kissinger living lives of obscene affluence while truth tellers like Julian are locked up for years, maybe decades. Anyhow, hope you’re well and let’s keep up the struggle. Best, Paul.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I completely understand your worries, Paul, especially after we heard about him suffering a stroke.

    I also remember Brian Haw’s extraordinary protest for all those years, and thanks for the anecdotes about Barbara Tucker.

    I was on an RT show with Danny Schechter back in 2011, although it’s longer available, sadly, after ‘we’ in the west pulled the plug on RT’s entire archive following the invasion of Ukraine. I haven’t read his book, but it does occur to me regularly that the mainstream media need challenging. I’m glad to see that there actually seems to be some momentum now to try and get the BBC to recognise that it’s unacceptable, in the name of ‘media balance’, to keep giving a platform to the unaccountable Tufton Street lobbyists (‘think-tanks’) who won’t reveal their funding. On Guantanamo, it used to be the vile Henry Jackson Society who were always asked to provide ‘balance’ to people like Clive Stafford Smith and myself, even though the opinions of an Islamophobic ‘think-tank’ weren’t actually valid at all.

    Thanks also for mentioning Email a Prisoner. I hadn’t heard of that:

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish translation, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Fotos y reporte: el éxito fenomenal de la cadena humana para Julian Assange de WikiLeaks alrededor del Parlamento británico’:

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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