The next meeting of the 17 Group will take place in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End at 7 pm on Wednesday the 6th of November at 7 pm. The speaker will be long-time non-violent activist Ciaron O’Reilly. Ciaron has just returned from months in a 24/7 solidarity vigil, first outside the Ecuadorean Embassy and then outside the Belmarsh prison. He will address the topic: “Accompanying Australian Anti-War Publisher Julian Assange in a Kafkaesque Slow Motion Crucifixion”.
Ciaron O’Reilly has recently returned from London where he has spent the last 18 months in fulltime solidarity organising & activism around persecuted Australian WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange now facing rendition to the United States and 17 espionage charges for anti-war publishing. This period included 7 months living 24/7 rough on the street outside the Ecuadorian embassy in the hyper wealthy Knighstbridge area – and more recently on a traffic island outside Belmarsh Category A prison. Julian Assange’s address changed in April 2019 when the collaborationist Ecuadorian regime of Lenin Moreno invited British Special Branch into the embassy where Julian had been granted asylum from persecution by the United States in 2012. Since his illegal rendition from the embassy, Julian has been charged with 17 counts under the draconian U.S. Espionage Act, created in WW1 to crush anti-war dissent.
O’Reilly reflects, “I recall in December 2010 when Julian was first taken into custody in London – I was running to the courts near Westminster and the State of Origin battle cry “Queenslander” popped into my head! Julian was born in Townsville in 1971, I was born in in Brisbane in 1960 – we had both been fashioned to some extent by the Australian anti-war/nuclear movements. As a former prisoner of the United States, I could easily relate to his predicament. He reminded me of another martyred Queensland journalist Greg Shackelton — someone very much like us, suffering very much like them (those designated by the war-making state as targets and collateral damage in the never ending “War on Terror”!).
It has been a delight and inspiration to get to know Julian over the past nine years as his guest in the embassy, his bodyguard at court appearances and more recently as his neighbour- living on the street outside his besieged window. I have come to appreciate his humour, his insight and resilience. But like many others, I now fear for his health and his life after so many years of sensory deprivation/now solitary confinement and knowing how well schooled (from Ireland to Iraq) the British are at breaking people down and (from personal; experience) how brutal the U.S., prison system is that awaits him.
I think Julian is the person in human history that has pissed off the most amount of powerful people in the shortest amount of time. He is also the person who seemed (in 2010) to go from hero to zero in the shortest amount of time! The smear campaigns by intelligence organisations & assets (including the useful idiots of the Guardian & liberal left) appeared effective in isolating and marginalising him.
It reminded me of the treatment of the Maguire family, the Conlons, Guilford 4, Brimingham 6, indigenous people and refugees – producing an empathy short circuit and fear of association. Julian became invisible in March 2018 when the Ecuadorian government switched off his in internet access & he could no longer give interviews or lectures over skype. At this time, I was asked to maintain a fulltime presence outside the embassy as a means of enhancing security and also providing visibility to his ongoing persecution.
I hope to unpack some of these experiences of proactive solidarity with interested groups while back in Australia and discuss how we can intervene from Australia and bring this Kafkaesque nightmare to an end.”
Ciaron O’Reilly was born in Brisbane in 1960. He received an early anti-imperialist orientation from his Irish Republican Socialist father Garrett – whose both maternal and paternal families had fought in the Irish War of Independence. Ciaron’s family home shares a back fence with Gallipoli/ Enoggera Barracks. Ciaron’s mother had 3 Uncles who were processed through there and shipped off to the imperial bloodbath of the Somme. Ciaron grew up there during the Vietnam War and from where more recently cannon fodder is shipped off to more recent U.S. imperial ventures in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria
Ciaron received 8 years of Christian Brothers education at St. James school located in Fortitude Valley during the years of “The Joke”, Whiskey Au Go Go firebombing etc In his final year of high school he was expelled for protesting the Queen’s Silver Jubilee visit and was one of 418 arrested at the October 22nd march against uranium mining banned by Joh Bjelke Petersen.
In the late ’70’s at Griffith University he remained active in the civil liberties and anti-nuclear struggles and became convinced of the anarchist/ pacifist implications of radical Christian discipleship. This led him to the praxis of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement and the nonviolent resistance of Fr. Daniel and Philip Berrigan, In 1982, he co-founded a Catholic Worker house in Boundary St. West End offering shelter to homeless indigenous youth and released prisoners, financed by co-operative work and a hub for nonviolent anti-war/nuclear resistance and opposition to nearby Boggo Road jail.
In the late 1980’s, Ciaron moved to the United States where he worked with a variety of Catholic Worker communities located in ghettos – serving the homeless and resisting the war-making state. While on the east coast he was mentored by Dan and Phil Berrigan. On new Years Day 1991 as part of the ANZUS Plowshares, Ciaron was arrested by the F.B.I. after disabling a B52 Bomber on the eve of the Gulf War/Massacre. He served 13 months in New York, Texas and Lousianna jails before receiving the more traditional punishment of “transportation to Australia”
On return to Australia, he initiated Greg Shackelton House, a Catholic Worker resistance community in solidarity with the people of East Timor. The community focused on resistance to Petroz mining company, training of Indonesian troops at Canungra and initiated the Sanctuary Movement that successfully stopped the Labor government deporting East Timorese refugees to Portugal. In 1996, Ciaron deployed to Liverpool/England to organise around the trial of four women who had disabled a Hawk Fighter ready for export by BAe to Indonesia to use in East Timor. Following the unprecedented acquittal of the women, Ciaron formed a Catholic Worker resistance community in Liverpool with East Timorese refugees and locals.
The community maintained a resistance focus on BAe. BAe responded with High Court Injunctions and infiltrating the community with a BAe operative, a former member of the notorious 14 Company of the British Army that had operated in the north of Ireland. It appears at this point British Special Branch also began hacking Ciaron’s email – this is the subject of the ongoing Operation Gilbert Inquiry.
Ciaron returned to Australia to participate in the successful resistance to the Jabiluka uranium mine – for which he served 4 months in Darwin Prison. He also participated in the significant anti-capitalist resistance to the World Economic Forum on September 11th 2000 – for which he was targeted and beaten badly by the Victorian Riot Squad. While based in England, he organised around 4 plowshares trials. The defending solicitor was Gareth Peirce who had freed the Guilford 4 and Birmingham 6. She is now the defending lawyer for Julian Assange.
In February 2003, Ciaron was arrested at Shannon Airport as one of the Pitstop Ploughshares and charged with $US2.5 million criminal damage to a U.S. war plane en route to the invasion of Iraq. After 3 years and 3 jury trials they were acquitted unanimously by a jury at Dublin’s historic Four Courts.
In 2010, Ciaron moved to London where he co-founded Giuseppe Conlon House of homeless refugees. His anti-war resistance work since then has primarily been solidarity organising for Chelsea Manning and the maternal Manning family based in Wales and for Julian Assange. He was arrested in Brisbane at the G20 attempting to confront U.S.President Obama on the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange. He managed to confront Australian High Commissioner Alexander Downer in London and now British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on their complicity in the ongoing persecution of Julian Assange.
When we paid our usual pre-meeting visit to Leon’s modest abode ( wild horses will not drag its whereabouts from us ), Leon directed our attention to two useful background links on Youtube for our meeting:
Animation: The WikiLeaks, Julian Assange Diplomatic Standoff
VID (4 mins) Ciaron O’Reilly beat up but upbeat!
and then showed us an excerpt from a recent article about him. It led off with quotes contrasting his attitude to that of the sort of people who find Assange threatening:
Trotsky and TTIP: how secret diplomacy serves elite interests
“Secret diplomacy shall not be tolerated for a single moment during the negotiations. Our flyers and our radio service will keep all the nations informed of every proposition we make, and of the answers they elicit from Germany. We shall be sitting in a glass house, as it were, and the German soldiers, through thousands of newspapers in German, which we shall distribute to them, will be informed of every step we take and of every German answer.” (Leon Trotsky – November 1917)
“However, there should be no intention to publish any US documents or common negotiating documents without the explicit agreement of the US. The EU market opening offers on tariffs, services, investment and procurement should not, in principle, be made public either, as they are the essence of the confidential part of the negotiations.” (Communication to European Commission concerning transparency in TTIP negotiations, 25 November 2014)
In 1917 the Bolsheviks shook the world, as John Reed would say. The new “people’s commissar of foreign affairs” Leon Trotsky, in turn shook the foreign ministries of the world by releasing a batch of secret treaties, which showed how the leading powers had agreed to partition Europe after the war. Something long suspected by the Bolsheviks, but which remained secret up until that time. Trotsky pointed to how: “Secret diplomacy is a necessary tool for a propertied minority which is compelled to deceive the majority in order to subject it to its interests”. Suggesting how secrecy in foreign relations was essentially a tool of the ruling elite, to be used against the interests of the majority. And adding that: “The abolition of secret diplomacy is the primary condition for an honest, popular, truly democratic foreign policy”. With this statement he formulated a radically different way of doing foreign politics. Running counter to the one promoted under capitalism, where elite interests are dominant, and where democratic control, and the transparency necessary to exert such control, remain limited at best. The starting quote made by the same man repeats this alternative view on diplomacy promoted by the early Bolsheviks. Explaining how radical transparency would be imposed upon Soviet foreign policy in its peace negotiations with the Germans. They would do this by exposing to the Soviet and German working-classes what Bolshevik intentions were, and in turn what were those of their counterparts. Opening the window for democratic control by the people over their representatives. Of course this initial radicalness eventually fell victim to the creeping authoritarianism of the beleaguered Soviet-Union. A sad nadir being reached when in 1939 the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed, which included a secret provision to divide Eastern-Europe into spheres of influence between Nazi-Germany and the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders becoming what they had denounced only a few decades before. The working-class apparently not needing to “be informed of every step we take and of every German answer” anymore.
“Of course”, said Leon, by then the disgusting Koba had removed me from the equation. From the point of view of your meeting, I remain, as you hyper-yankified anglophones say, ‘the good guy’. As a sign of my goodwill I repeat my little offer here of ‘a couple of useful background videos’:
Animation: The WikiLeaks, Julian Assange Diplomatic Standoff
VID (4 mins) Ciaron O’Reilly beat up but upbeat!