Occupy London faces dilemma over support for Julian Assange
Organisation torn over whether to back WikiLeaks founder as activists join protests outside Ecuadorean embassy in London
As Occupy London activists demonstrate in support of Julian Assangeoutside the Ecuadorean embassy, an argument has broken out within and around the movement over whether it should be backing the fugitive Wikileaks founder at all.
“Occupy London has still not come to a collective decision about the Assange issue. Some object to his extradition to Sweden, some don’t,”tweeted Occupy London’s Twitter account, which has been attempting to rally support for Assange. Activists have stood with placards outside the embassy and live-streamed coverage of events on the internet.
A tweet sent later on Sunday evening insisted: “Once again, to avoid any confusion – There is currently no universal agreement that Occupy London does in fact support Julian Assange.”
Some activists, including a number of those who supported the long-running occupation outside St Paul’s cathedral and have been waiting for what could emerge as Occupy’s next big initiative, have expressed disappointment.
“Unbelievable that a crowd turned up to SUPPORT #assange. Very sad sight and a shame that these rape apologists have poisoned #occupy london” said one Twitter user .
She added: “I feel sorry for the people who I know are excellent who put a lot of time and effort into occupy.”
However, some of the activists associated with Occupy who have turned up outside the embassy have stressed their presence is about showing solidarity with Wikileaks rather than necessarily endorsing Assange.
Naomi Colvin, a London-based writer and activist who has acted as a spokeswoman for Occupy, said she believed the global movement would never have happened without the whistleblowing website.
“The energy that Wikileaks produced and sense of purpose was certainly responsible in a large part for Occupy and a lot of people around the world realising themselves politically and that certainly happened to me” said Colvin, who said she was speaking in an individual capacity.
“On top of that, Wikileaks and Julian Assange has been very supportive of Occupy in London, so there is a sense that people want to support him for that reason. What he and that organisation have done is genuinely important, while what the British government has done in the past week is clearly out of order and clearly disproportionate. People have a right to be annoyed about that.”
Colvin agreed that a debate was taking place among supporters of Occupy but added that the movement had always been able to encompass differing view points.
She added: “Of course, to be supportive of Wikileaks is not to downplay questions about violence against a person or rape.”