by Sarah Cortes-Protestors spent a second day and night outside the British Consulate in Cambridge MA in response to the UK's continued threats against the sovereignty of Ecuador's London Embassy and Julian Assange. Identifying themselves with the philosophy of the loose collective of computer hackers known as "Anonymous," individuals in "V for Vendetta" masks occupied the space in front of the Consulate, located at One Broadway in Kendall Square.
Assange has sought refuge from UK extradition in Ecuador's London embassy since June 16. In a new development, Ecuador announced yesterday it has extended Assange permanant asylum. In response, the UK has stated it will arrest Assange the minute he steps outside the embassy.
Assange founded Wikileaks, the organization that published hundreds of thousands of pages of US diplomatic and military cables allegedly leaked by US Pvt. Bradley Manning. Among other artifacts, Wikileaks published 39 minutes of classified US Army helicopter cockpit gunsight footage, which can be seen in the video "Collateral Murder," at www.collateralmurder.com. The video footage includes the shooting and sometimes slow deaths of unarmed civilians, children and Reuters journalists during an American airstrike in Baghdad on July 12, 2007. In the video, US soldiers "Crazyhorse 1/8" and "Crazyhorse 1/9" direct fire from a US Army helicopter at two unarmed Reuters journalists, two small children, their father (while he is attempting to aid the wounded), other individuals attempting to aid the wounded, and other unarmed civilians. "Crazyhorse 1/9" then directs US soldiers to take the wounded children to a local clinic lacking basic medical supplies, refusing to allow their transport to the well-supplied US Army hospital nearby. The wounded children, shot in the face, were the only survivors of the airstrike.
Manning has been detained without trial in conditions called by his lawyer "harsh and flagrantly unlawful," since his arrest in 2010. The Guardian reported that, according to "a 14-month investigation by Mendez [Juan Mendez, the UN's special rapporteur on torture] concluded that Manning had been subjected to cruel and inhuman conditions." David House, co-founder of the Bradley Manning support network www.bradleymanning.org, was unable to join the protests..
According to Amnesty International, Ecuador is on its watch list due to "curbs on freedom of expression [which] included the use of criminal defamation charges against journalists critical of the government or local officials. In July, a judge ordered three directors and a former columnist of the newspaper El Universo to pay President Correa US$40 million in damages and sentenced them to three years’ imprisonment for criminal defamation. President Correa brought a criminal complaint against the four men in March, a month after an article was published referring to him as a “dictator” and suggesting that he might face criminal prosecution over the September 2010 disturbances when the armed forces rescued him from a hospital in Quito. He had sought refuge there from police officers protesting against proposed cuts in their pay and benefits. An appeal against the sentence imposed on the directors and columnist was pending in the National Court of Justice at the end of the year."
When Reuters requested an explanation of the 20007 murders of its photographers, and an investigation, US military authorities insisted the circumstances were legal, refused to release information regarding the shootings, and denied the existence of the cockpit gunsight footage. It was only with the 2010 release by Wikileaks that the evidence and details surrounding this and other incidents came to light.
Senator Diane Feinstein has called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act (18 USC 793e), which carries the death penalty as a potential punishment. The three other members of the US Congress have called for Assange's execution or death. Ecuador and Assange contend that the extradition which the UK is demanding will lead to his death in the US.
Cambridge protestors followed similar protests at British consulates and embassies around the world. "Unprecedented UK threats to violate the sovereign designation of Ecuador's London embassy threatens the safety of British subjects around the world, and all of us. It is intended to retaliate against Assange for publishing information of vital importance to all of us, concealed from the public," stated one of the protestors at the corner of Third and Main Streets. When asked how long Anonymous intended to continue its occupation at One Broadway in Cambridge, protestors replied only with the smile on their "V for Vendetta" masks. "V for Vendetta" is a trademark of multinational Viacom, which derives a fee from the sale of every mask based on its copyright.