Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011-01-09 "Protesters march for Wikileaks founder Assange"

By JENNA BROGAN from "Santa Cruz Sentinel" newspaper
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
SANTA CRUZ -- Around 50 protesters raised signs and marched in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and whistle-blower Pfc. Bradley Manning at Saturday at the Town Clock on Pacific Avenue.
Hoping to publicize their disdain for the prosecution of the two men responsible for the disclosure of U.S. classified information, protest organizer Steven Argue of Santa Cruz and the Coalition to Free Julian Assange and Bradley Manning distributed 3,000 fliers and gathered for the second time in two weeks.
"Freedom of speech and press are being violated," said Argue. "It's no crime to expose war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan -- these wars are extreme in their torture and destruction; we're not being told what's going on."
Manning is an Army intelligence analyst who's suspected of supplying WikiLeaks with classified information. He is in a maximum-security military brig at Quantico, Va., charged with leaking video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed a Reuters news photographer and his driver. WikiLeaks posted the video on its website in April of last year. Three months later, WikiLeaks posted some 90,000 leaked U.S. military records on the war in Afghanistan, including unreported incidents of Afghan civilian killings as well as covert operations against Taliban figures.
Assange is currently out on bail in Britain, where he is fighting extradition to Sweden on sex crimes allegations. His next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Some of the protesters traveled from as far as Napa County to participate. Representatives from Students for a Democratic Society, Movement for a Democratic Society, the Oscar Grant Committee and the Peace and Freedom Party were also in attendance.
"[Manning] is being made a criminal when he's a hero," said Frank Runninghorse of Concord. "He risked his life to protect this country, and if we don't oppose this, we're accomplices."
Though the group was concentrated at the Town Clock, eventually some of the protesters tried to march down Pacific Avenue.
"At times they created a bit of a traffic problem," said Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark. "But the march was largely unsuccessful."
Their passion was not squelched, though.
For Stan Woods, the need to take a stand motivated him to drive from Oakland to attend.
"If Assange can be prosecuted, so should the editor of The New York Times and The Guardian in Britain," he said of the papers that have printed the Wikileaks revelations. "This is a huge step toward becoming a police state."
Ruth Valdez of Aptos hoped the protesters' visibility on Pacific Avenue would at least draw attention to the issue and their solidarity for the "heroic whistle-blowers." Judging by the number of cars that honked as they drove by, they certainly got the attention they were looking for.
"I'm happy to see that all these people came out," said Woody Wood of Santa Cruz. "If you can cover up the truth, that's scary."

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