The Not-So-Perfect Storm

Ecuador contends that the British Foreign Office has yet to renounce a threat to storm its embassy in London, where Julian Assange has taken refuge from British authorities. So says The Guardian. A British court has ordered the WikiLeaks founder’s extradition to Sweden to face questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct, although no formal charges of any crime have been filed against him.

An Occupy demonstrator drew this sidewalk sign at the British consulate in New York to protest a British threat to storm Ecuador’s embassy in London. The sign was chalked above a flyer demanding freedom for Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is accused of passing classified material to WikiLeaks and who has been detained under brutal conditions amounting to torture. A “Walk to Support Bradley Manning” is planned at Grand Central Station on Aug. 27. [Photo: JH]

Outside the British consulate in New York, where Occupy demonstrators are conducting a round-the-clock vigil demanding that Assange be given safe passage out of Britain, an Occupier chalked a sidewalk sign to protest the British threat by reminding authorities of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Great Britain’s Foreign Office had warned that Assange could be arrested inside the embassy. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, later claimed it was not a threat to “storm” the embassy. But an Ecuadorean diplomatic source told the newspaper:

“The threat hasn’t been withdrawn.” The source suggested that the police presence around the building was excessive, with the embassy under siege at one point last week and still surrounded by dozens of policemen now. “It was amazing. There used to be four or six policemen since Mr Assange got here. Suddenly there were three trucks of police surrounding us. There were police on the interior stairs. There was even one in the window of the toilet. It was clearly a message.”

Police officers enter the building containing the Ecuadorean embassy – where Julian Assange has been staying – on Tuesday. [Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty via The Guardian]

Article 22 of the Vienna Convention says:

1.The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

2.The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.

3.The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Assange, who denies the allegations of sexual misconduct, has said he is willing to face questioning by the Swedish authorities but not in Sweden. He believes Sweden would hand him over to the United States, where several U.S. Senators have called for his prosecution for espionage, and where the Justice Department, which has been investigating WikiLeaks for violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, is said to have obtained a sealed grand jury indictment against him.

Meanwhile, the New York City Chapter of World Can’t Wait, is organizing a “Walk to Support Bradley Manning” at Grand Central Station on Monday (Aug. 27). It has put out a call to gather at
4:30 p.m. at the northwest corner of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue. The plan is for walkers to enter Grand Central at 5 p.m. holding I am Bradley Manning masks, carrying small flags saying Free Bradley Manning and Blowing the Whistle on War Crimes Is NOT a Crime. They will “walk and freeze to the sound of whistles” and will hand out fliers to commuters “scurrying to get their trains.”

UPDATE: Sept. 19 — I hoped I wouldn’t have to write this update. The promised round-the-clock occupation at the British consulate in New York has ended. After arranging for other Occupiers to replace him, Yoni Miller decamped to Florida for demonstrations at the Republican National Convention. At the consulate only one or two hardy Occupiers ever showed up at a time, and finally even they gave up. But the NYC Police Department didn’t. It still has a pair of patrolman stationed at the site, keeping watch over an empty sidewalk.

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