Above photo: Ivan Radic/Flickr.
Last night, MB and I went to Waterville, Maine to see this film about the campaign to free Julian Assange.
Along with us were several friends Luke, Cynthia, Eric, Mark, and Ryan. It felt good to have our crew of good folks together in a theatre that only had a total of 20 people in it.
Julian’s dad John Shipton and his brother Gabriel were there as part of a 59-city tour they are currently on.
The film was fantastic and moving beyond imagination. Julian’s wife Stella and their two small kids made his persecution by the pirate American government all the more real.
Before the film began John was in the lobby greeting people. I handed him my card and told him the story about our 1989 campaign to stop NASA’s launch of the Galileo deep space mission that carried deadly plutonium-238 onboard.
For about one week the launch was delayed for ‘unknown reasons’ so I kept organizing daily protests and news conferences at the Kennedy Space Center for the international media outlets who were stuck there with nothing else to do.
Years later my son (also named Julian, who is a debate coach) was doing some research and came upon a book written by Assange and a co-worker. They told the story about his first ever computer hacking experience where he shut down NASA’s launch ability for that week using what they called a ‘WANK worm’.
The authors wrote in the book:
For weeks, the protesters had been out in force, demonstrating and seizing media attention. Things had become very heated. On Saturday, 7 October, sign-wielding activists fitted themselves out with gas masks and walked around on street corners in nearby Cape Canaveral in protest. At 8 a.m. on Monday, 9 October, NASA started the countdown for the Thursday blast-off. But as Atlantis’s clock began ticking toward take-off, activists from the Florida Coalition for Peace and Justice demonstrated at the centre’s tourist complex.
That these protests had already taken some of the shine off NASA’s bold space mission was the least of the agency’s worries. The real headache was that the Florida Coalition told the media it would `put people on the launchpad in a non-violent protest’. The coalition’s director, Bruce Gagnon, put the threat in folksy terms, portraying the protesters as the little people rebelling against a big bad government agency. President Jeremy Rivkin of the Foundation on Economic Trends, another protest group, also drove a wedge between `the people’ and `NASA’s people’. He told UPI, `The astronauts volunteered for this mission. Those around the world who may be the victims of radiation contamination have not volunteered.’
It just goes to show that you never know who is paying attention to your efforts. Who could have known that Julian Assange, who has become a global hero due to his courageous work with Wiki Leaks, would be moved enough by our campaign to feature it in the first chapter of his book? Maybe it was because it was a classic story about out-of-control technology and the “little peoples” reaction. Any way you cut it one has to acknowledge that it has a nice twist.
One side story should be told here as well. My son Julian was nine years old in 1989 and one day I came home from the space center and he had my gas mask on. In his most serious voice he told me, “Don’t worry Dad, if Galileo blows up I could wear this gas mask for the rest of my life.” He was trying to make me feel better. His words cut right to my heart and my soul and virtually every day since that time I have stayed true to the cause because I believe that no child, my own or anyone else’s, should ever have to think of living in a radioactive wasteland wearing a gas mask for their whole life.
Thank you Julian Assange.
Free Julian Assange now!