Morning Star: Freeing Assange is a struggle for justice, journalism and peace

Spread the love

JUDGES must decide tomorrow if Julian Assange would enjoy the same rights as a US citizen if tried in the US.

It’s an ironic question. The persecution of the WikiLeaks founder has rested from the beginning on US exceptionalism — that rules do not apply to the United States as they apply to other countries — and extraterritoriality, that US law somehow applies to non-US citizens’ conduct thousands of miles away from the US.

Both apply too to the crimes Assange is being tormented for exposing.

The US can murder citizens of other countries by the hundred in drone strikes, without due process or even much in the way of diplomatic upset.

It can launch illegal war after illegal war, its soldiers can laugh as they gun down unarmed civilians from helicopters, it can loftily decline to recognise the authority of bodies like the International Criminal Court (while publicly welcoming indictments of other countries’ officials before that court): but still it claims to police a “rules-based international order” under supposed threat from its rivals.

This is about journalism: as New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet has stated, it sets a frightening precedent when a journalist can be accused of espionage for publishing classified material that was handed to him. Assange did not leak the information: he was never in the US government’s employ. The Assange case warns reporters everywhere that publicising the crimes of the powerful could result in years behind bars.

Continue ReadingMorning Star: Freeing Assange is a struggle for justice, journalism and peace

Protest isn’t harassment, says group suing UK government over law change

Spread the love

 Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Protesters gather in Parliament Square, London, to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, 21 February 2024
 | Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Human rights group Liberty says spotlight on MPs’ safety has seen Tories ‘vilify’ Palestine marchers

Ahuman rights campaign group suing the government for forcing through anti-protest laws says people who go on Palestine marches are being “vilified” to “stoke division”.

Liberty is today challenging the home secretary, James Cleverly, in the High Court over a decision by his predecessor Suella Braverman to introduce new legislation targeting protesters that had already been rejected by Parliament.

The case comes in a week where protest rights are in the spotlight. Pro-Palestine marches are being labelled a threat to MPs and the Home Affairs Select Committee has called on the government to force organisers to give more notice.

Speaking to openDemocracy ahead of the hearing, Liberty director Akiko Hart said: “We’re seeing both our fundamental rights of protest being undermined, but also specific protests like the pro-Palestinian marches being vilified.”

Hart took aim at the “incredibly irresponsible rhetoric from senior politicians where protest is equated to intimidation and harassment”.

MPs’ safety fears were raised last week following chaos in the House of Commons over a symbolic vote on a ceasefire in Gaza. Though some MPs have reported an increase in abuse and threats, campaigners warn that peaceful protests are now being associated with terrorism in order to undermine them.

“There were legitimate concerns around MPs’ safety – obviously, two MPs have been murdered in the last ten years,” she said. “We need to take that very, very seriously. I would also say that it’s MPs who are racialised who are most at risk from harassment, and that’s what the evidence shows us.

“But to conflate harassment with protest, which is what’s happening this week, is really dangerous and irresponsible. There are laws in place to deal with harassment and abuse. That isn’t the same as legitimate protest.”

In its recommendations, the Home Affairs Select Committee said more notice was needed ahead of Palestine marches because the size and frequency of the protests is a burden on police resources. But according to the coalition organising the national Palestine marches, the measures would further limit the right to peaceful protest. Hart also said the current notice period of six days is enough for police to prepare for marches.

“Extending that will just restrict people’s ability to be able to make their voices heard. With this, as with any other issue, the point about protest is that it is not about whether or not you agree – it’s about our right to protest,” she explained.

Liberty was given the green light to sue Braverman in October after she used secondary legislation – which doesn’t get the same level of parliamentary scrutiny – to allow police to restrict or shut down any protest that could cause “more than minor disruption to the life of the community”.

“It shouldn’t be the case that you would have to take the home secretary to court with all the time and effort and energy and expertise that that involves,” said Hart. “The reason we are doing so is because of the then home secretary’s egregious act of circumventing Parliament.”

The government previously tried to insert the new powers into the Public Order Act 2023 in January last year, but was blocked by the Lords.

The point about protest is that it is not about whether or not you agree – it’s about our right to protest

Liberty believes a win “would be a powerful check against any future minister or government that intends to do the same thing”.

Hart told openDemocracy that there have already been clear examples of the impact of anti-protest laws that have come through the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts (‘Policing’) Act and the Public Order Act, which both give police more powers to restrict protests.

“There were anti-monarchy protesters who were arrested on the basis that the luggage straps that they were carrying were seen to be tools for locking-on, which was a new offence created under the Public Order Act, but they were carrying them to secure their placards.

“We’re also seeing it in sentencing. Last summer, the Court of Appeal upheld the sentences of the two protesters who scaled the Dartford crossing. And those sentences were two years and seven months, and three years – the harshest sentences ever handed down in modern times around protests around civil disobedience,” she said.

The trial against the home secretary is expected to run for two days at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Hart told openDemocracy that while she and Liberty’s team of lawyers are feeling optimistic, “there’s a level of underlying exhaustion at how this government is conducting itself and responding to the protests that are happening”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to peaceful protest is fundamental; the right to disrupt the hard-working public is not.

“We have taken action to give police the powers they need to tackle criminal tactics used by protesters such as locking on and slow marching, as well as interfering with key national infrastructure.

“We work closely with the police to make sure they have the tools they need to tackle disorder and minimise disruption.”

Get OpenDemocracy’s free daily email

 Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Continue ReadingProtest isn’t harassment, says group suing UK government over law change

Eighteen climate activists involved in non-violent protests to stand trial next week

Spread the love

Insulate Britain activists block a road during a protest Photo: Insulate Britain

TRIALS of 18 climate activists who participated in non-violent action are set to begin next week as the government enforces authoritarian laws curbing the right to protest.

Five Extinction Rebellion activists are accused of causing criminal damage to the European headquarters of the half-a trillion-dollar financial firm JP Morgan, during a protest in September 2021 against its funding of fossil fuel firms.

Eight Insulate Britain supporters are accused of causing public nuisance by peacefully stopping traffic on the M25 motorway in the same month to press the government to insulate Britain’s homes to end fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions.

And five Just Stop Oil supporters face trial for alleged conspiracy to cause a public nuisance after they they occupied tunnels close to Grays oil terminal in August 2022 in pursuit for their demand for a halt to all new oil, coal and gas projects.

The trials coincide with fresh government attempts to undermine trials by jury.

Continue ReadingEighteen climate activists involved in non-violent protests to stand trial next week

Unprecedented crises call for bold solutions

Spread the love

Transformative politics and a renewed commitment to democracy are needed if we’re to build a more equal, sustainable and peaceful world, writes JEREMY CORBYN MP

Image of Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party
Jeremy Corbyn MP, former leader of the Labour Party

Devoid of solutions for the crises they have created, the Tories have resorted to punching down on the most marginalised people in our society.

Rishi Sunak’s speech was an equally spineless charade. Not a word on housing. Nothing on social care. Does he care 4.2 million children live in poverty? Does he know that we’re sleepwalking into climate catastrophe?

Having witnessed this horror show of fear, despair and division, the Labour Party has a choice this week in Liverpool.

Do we let their hatred spread unchallenged? Or do we offer an alternative of inclusion, equality and hope? Do we allow them to convince the British public that inequality and poverty are inevitable? Or do we mobilise around the possibility of a better world?

Unprecedented crises call for bold solutions. That means building a new economy that satisfies human needs, not corporate greed.

There is a reason why these demands for a more equal, sustainable and peaceful world are not being made by the Labour leadership.

The absence of transformative ideas has been caused by a dearth of democracy. This year marks 50 years since we founded the Campaign for Labour Party Democracy.

We did this to empower party members and expand their rights. Today, these rights are under attack up and down the country.

Local branches like my own are being sidelined, party members are being silenced and democracy is being stifled. This is not coincidental to the drastic political shift away from our redistributive programme.

Our transformative policies from 2017 and 2019 were not imposed from the top. They were developed, formulated and defended by members and affiliates.

That is how it should be. Democracy is the foundation of the Labour Party. It is essential to a healthy, creative and collective movement.

And, ultimately, only a movement that empowers its members can generate the transformative policies this country desperately needs.

Continue ReadingUnprecedented crises call for bold solutions

The U.S. at a crossroads: How Donald Trump is criminalizing American politics

Spread the love

Henry Giroux, McMaster University

Donald Trump has made history again. He is the first president of the United States charged with attempting to overturn a presidential election, violating the rights of citizens to have their votes counted, tampering with a witness and obstructing an official proceeding, among other criminal offences.

He’s also the first president to be indicted. And this is his third indictment in four months — and all of this is playing out amid his campaign for re-election in 2024.

None of the charges brought against Trump are surprising. His legacy as an accused serial liar, self-serving crook, sexual predator and white nationalist
— coupled with his assaults on the courts and supporter of authoritarians globally — are well known.

In effect, he has become the chief annihilator of democracy.

Seven protesters in neon yellow T-shirts hold orange letters that spell out 'justice.'
Anti-Donald Trump protesters hold letters that spell out ‘justice’ in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 3 as former president Donald Trump was set to appear in federal court on charges that he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
(AP Photo/Jess Rapfogel)

Racism, xenophobia

As Washington Post political columnist Max Boot has observed, Trump has made a mockery out of political leadership, embraced widespread corruption and provided a model for being one of the worst presidents in American history. Boot writes:

“He has trafficked in racism and xenophobia. He has incited violence. He has kowtowed to dictators and trashed our alliances. He has welcomed Russian attacks on our elections. He has locked children in cages. He has called for his opponents to be locked up.”

Put differently, Trump has criminalized both social problems and politics itself.

Trump and his allies have long created a culture of lies, illusions, cruelty and misrepresentation. He has waged an incessant attack on reason, critical thinking, informed judgment and social responsibility. His distaste for Black people, migrants and others he considers disposable is matched by his support for the financial and corporate elite.

His populist pose is not only at odds with his policies, such as reducing taxes for the rich and hollowing out the social safety net, but has also pushed American society closer to an upgraded form of white supremacy and fascism.

Yet, despite the damage Trump has done to democracy, he has almost complete support of the Republican Party and a majority of Republican voters — slightly more than 58 per cent say they still plan to vote for him in the 2024 presidential election if he wins the Republican nomination. He appears poised to clinch that nomination.

Even more troubling are recent polls indicating he’s in a dead heat with U.S. President Joe Biden if they’re the presidential nominees in 2024.

Two men are seen arguing on a large stage from behind their respective podiums.
Donald Trump and Joe Biden participate in a presidential debate in Nashville, Tenn., in October 2020.
(Jim Bourg/Pool via AP)

What explains Trump’s appeal?

Most of media is focused on Trump’s legal troubles. But too little has been written about the conditions that have given rise to his authoritarian politics or why Trump is a national disgrace still backed by millions of Americans.

Trump’s grip on power is a collective nightmare that can only be understood in terms of the historical, economic, political and cultural conditions of which he is the endpoint.

As American anthropologist Wade Davis has observed:

“Odious as he may be, Trump is less the cause of America’s decline than a product of its descent.”

Trump embodies a society that has been in crisis for decades, but especially since the 1980s. This was a period when the right-wing counter-revolution emerged with the election of Ronald Reagan.

A dark-haired man gives a thumbs up while a woman dressed in red waves from a limousine.
Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs up to the crowd while his wife, first lady Nancy Reagan, waves from a limousine during the inaugural parade in Washington following Reagan’s swearing in as the 40th president of the United States in January 1981.
(AP Photo/File)

Since that time, the democratic values that informed the social contract and common good have been increasingly displaced by market values that stress self-interest, privatization, commodification, deregulation and the accumulation of profit and celebration of greed. Civic culture came under attack along with the erosion of the values of shared citizenship.

The market became a template for controlling not just the economy, but all of society. The language of rabid individualism replaced the notion of the common good and gave way to a disdain for community.

Snubbing social responsibility

Under the regime of neoliberalism, social responsibility is now viewed as a liability.

Government was discredited as a force for good, its public infrastructure was eroded and replaced by a culture of cruelty in which matters of compassion, care, and ethical responsibility began to disappear.

What emerged was society marked by precarity, loneliness and mass anxiety. The rising cult of individualism made it difficult for the public to translate private troubles into systemic considerations, weakening the public imagination. The rise of a media environment where politics becomes a form of entertainment helped silence any resistance to a growing culture of lies and greed.

Staggering levels of economic inequality also emerged, setting the ground for dark money shaping politics. This neoliberal poison helped to create a society of political monsters, immune to the virtues and conditions of democracy.

An ornate domed building is seen behind a homeless person lying on a steam vent in a grassy area.
A homeless man resting on a steam vent on the National Mall in 2019 in Washington.
(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Democratic freedoms rooted in equality, freedom from fear, poverty and precarity gave way to what are known as ugly freedoms used to mine depths of hatred and selfishness, and redefine citizenship as the exclusive privilege of white Christian nationalists and radical evangelicals.

Harnessed to exclusion and bigotry, the language of freedom was invoked eventually by Trump and other Republican Party politicians to produce policies that have banned books, crushed dissent, limited classroom and workplace discussions about race, whitewashed African American history and justified a virulent anti-democratic politics that echo the ghosts of a fascist past.

America at a crossroads

The most important issues Americans face today are not solely about Trump’s corruption, lawlessness or open authoritarianism — it’s about learning from history.

We must rethink the lies that neoliberal capitalism have told us about how American society defines itself while rethinking what it will take to challenge and overcome the anti-democratic forces that gave rise to Trump.

The 2024 election should be about more than Trump’s ongoing legal travails. It should be a directive for what kind of society Americans want and what kind of future they desire for their children. They should regard the election as a choice between democracy and the further criminalization of American politics.The Conversation

Henry Giroux, Chaired professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the Department of English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingThe U.S. at a crossroads: How Donald Trump is criminalizing American politics