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July 20, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Never Give Up

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Here’s something they don’t want you to know. People really do have the power. Assange’s freedom has lit a candle of hope in the darkness of dystopia.

A snowball’s chance in hell. That was what I had thought Julian Assange’s chances of freedom. A war in Gaza. A war in Ukraine. The real threat of Trump’s orange haze back in the White House. A dystopian swing to the far-right in France. Advance Australia, the scary right-wing group who funded the ‘No’ vote here in Australia declaring they’ll drop millions to stop Greens winning the balance of power in the next election by targeting our seat of Richmond. It’s hard to feel hope some days. False narratives reign supreme making it a dangerous place for peace-loving, tree-hugging truth tellers.

On 26 June I was flying to Canberra to see a friend give her inaugural speech as a new senator. I got an alert at 6am that police and security had made a 5am move to disassemble the protest camp at Wallum. So first stop was Wallum. I was shown photos that could have come from a war zone. Security in all black, with balaclavas and faces covered. They looked like militia. Flares being set off at the end of a suburban neighbourhood before dawn. When I arrived, I realised why they needed such a show of force. Standing for Wallum were old women, mums with babies, small kids, old men, a woman in a wheelchair. Real threats to public safety.

In a world of sociopaths vs empaths, with the former in power and the latter in despair, hope is something both fraught and precious. So hearing Assange was on a plane on the way to Canberra (on the same day as me) seemed too good to be true. Canberra was buzzing with excitement. It’s a city in a suit, so it rarely buzzes. I was with a small, very excited crew of people from the Northern Rivers who decided that we would find a way to get amongst the Assange action. After all, we are ‘Free Assange’ people. I’ve shared the stage with John Shipton many times, I’ve interviewed pro-Assange filmmakers, I’ve attended rallies, gatherings, and followed the case since he walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012 and asked for political asylum.

So finding myself at the East Hotel in Kingston in the middle of the first press conference was overwhelming. The place was bursting at the seams. There were cameras from the BBC, national broadcasters, the independent journalists, filmmakers, community radio stations, politicians, advocates, true believers, non-believers and me (it helps to have a friend who worked for Wikileaks.) Listening to Julian’s long-term legal counsel Jenny Robinson and his US lawyer Barry Pollack seemed surreal. Seeing the joy, and the relief, on the face of Stella Assange so close up was transformational. It was a moment of pure joy for the hopeful. For all those who have rallied against the powerful, against injustice.

In the second Assange press conference (yes! we made it to two!), Stella was asked what Assange would do next. ‘He will swim in the ocean every day. He will sleep in his own bed.’ That’s freedom. Of course none of us saw or heard from Assange directly. Just knowing he was somewhere close, a free man was enough. We heard there are no gag orders as conditions of release. I was in the room and heard that with my own ears. So in time we’ll hear from Assange himself. I can’t wait.

It’s an intoxicating feeling to be in the middle of a historic moment. To hug Julian’s dad. To stand with all those who have kept his story going. It was a celebration. Outside the hotel were three scraggy old dudes holding ‘Free Assange’ signage. I went outside and said, ‘you know you can come in. He’s free.’ But they chose to stay outside for one last protest. They’re not on-the- inside people. They’re voices from the outside. I got it.

While there were legal and political machinations in play, Assange being free is a credit to the work of those people on the outside. Grassroots activists. The people who kept the pressure on. The relentless energy of activism. Sometimes the impossible becomes possible.

Here’s something they don’t want you to know. People really do have the power. Assange’s freedom has lit a candle of hope in the darkness of dystopia.

Stay loud. Speak up. Don’t bend to bad laws.

And most importantly. Never give up.

Free Assange!? Job done.

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  1. “… legal and political machinations” indeed! But not one mention of the crucial role played by this government. So ungracious!

  2. Unfortunately he had to plead guilty to US felony charges, which carried severe penalties, creating precedence for future charges against journalists.

  3. Wonderful. Thank you for this article. Tis true we’ve needed hope and relief for what seems ever. Assange’s release triggers new possibilities within us and a profound ‘reward’, and example, for never giving up on justice freedom truth and faith in the dark side being revealed. Who amongst us has his degree of remarkable resilience?

  4. Thanks Mandy what a day!!
    So happy you are able to speak for us to highlight the people power, the dystopia and our ability to challenge bad laws and to never ever give up.


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