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Protest is a Right, Repression is Crime

“Protest is a right, repression is a crime.”

Written on a wall at the Escuela Normal Rural Raùl Isidro Burgos, Guerrero State, Mexico, where 43 students were kidnapped following clashes with police on 26 September 2014.

Three people who recently expanded our knowledge of how repression works and gave ammunition for protest paid with the loss of their freedom. Chelsea, then Bradley, Manning was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for passing documents on America’s wars to Wikileaks. Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, has been under legal confinement for four years, first restricted on bail to a farm in Norfolk and subsequently under political asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London, without a single charge lodged against him. Edward Snowden, who exposed the National Security Agency’s policy of universal electronic surveillance in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, found refuge in a Russia and is unable to travel.

As Willy Loman’s wife, Linda, says in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, “So attention must be paid.” My colleagues and I are asking you to pay attention to Manning, Assange and Snowden with a public homage. The Italian sculptor Davide Dormino has created a life-size statue of the three in tribute to their courage. Each stands on a chair. Beside them is a fourth, empty chair for those of us brave enough to stand with them. We are asking you to take your stand on that fourth chair by making a donation to cover the cost of turning the mold into bronze. We have opened a fundraising drive on Kickstarter to raise £100,000.

The “Anything to say?” project has received the full support of the head of the Committee of Human Rights of the Italian parliament and of Reporters Sans Frontières. So far, more than one hundred people have made donations to the fund.

On Wednesday, 26 November, at seven in the evening London time, there will be a gathering of supporters in London at the Frontline Club and in Paris at Shakespeare and Company Bookshop. All are welcome. The speakers include:

David Dormino, sculptor and visual artist, who works in Rome and teaches sculpture at Rome University of Fine Arts (RUFA).

William Bourdon, Edward Snowden’s lawyer and distinguished human rights advocate.

Vaughan Smith, the Frontline Club founder and board member of the Frontline Freelance Register (FFR).who welcomed Assange into his house while on bail.

Norman Solomon, the coordinator of ExposeFacts.org, a new organization for whistleblowing and independent journalism and author of many books on media, war and public policy.

Gavin MacFadyen, director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism and visiting professor at City University London.

Jean Michel Boissier, member of the Administrative Board of Reporters sans Frontières and editor-in-chief of Le Blogeur on Arté television.

We are seeking a public venue in Paris to site the first casting of the bronze sculpture, and we plan to place further castings in other cities. This is a departure from the normal practice of erecting monuments to those who achieved fame by killing people in large numbers. It does not pay homage to generals like George Armstrong Custer and Arthur “Bomber” Harris, whose statues celebrate bloodshed and death. This statue honors all people who demand open and constitutional government; the privacy guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution (“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”) and fair treatment of those who struggle for liberty and justice. This is their monument, as it is yours.

Charles Glass is an American author, journalist, and broadcaster specializing in the Middle East.

 

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