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We are publishing the text of a letter sent to the organisers of the International Women’s Day rally in Belfast regarding an incident in which stewards confronted a female activist from the Free Assange campaign.  This letter was sent as an email message to the account of Reclaim the Agenda but there has been no reply. We are now bringing this to public attention.  A reply from Reclaim the Agenda is still welcome as are responses from activists within the broader feminist movement in Belfast. (ed)

05 May 2024

Incident at International Women's Day 2024 rally in Belfast

21 March 2024

International Women’s Day, Belfast 2024

I am writing to you as a member of the Belfast Anti-War Group. We have long supported the case of Julian Assange and decided on International Women’s Day (IWD) to support the banner organised by (name redacted). We were astounded at the obstruction and harassment of (name redacted) and the banner by a group of stewards representing your group

At the demonstration the platform announced: ‘We will not allow our movement to be divided. We will not allow women to be silenced. We will also resist any attempts to restrict our right to protest’.

But three stewards caused division from the outset of the march, silencing a woman, (name redacted) a veteran campaigner for peace and a women's rights activist now in her 70s. The aim was to prevent her protest behind a banner of Julian Assange symbolically gagged by the US stars and stripes. It stated: ‘Hands off Assange: Don’t shoot the Messenger’. Journalist Julian Assange and Wikileaks exposed to the world the horror of western war crimes.

From the start the approach was confrontational and clearly caused great distress. We were harangued, harassed, and physically obstructed to force us out of the march. We believe that public marches are open to all who support its aims. That stewards are there to support the marchers and prevent outside interference, not as an internal police force.

Their view, that the accusation of rape against Assange is sufficient to negate the exposure of war crimes and justifies suppressing protest in support of him, is a view within feminism, but we do not believe it to be a majority view. We have studied your site carefully and can find no reference to such a policy.

If this position exists, it is totally incoherent. One of the main themes of the march was genocide in Gaza. The smear from Israel is that Hamas fighters carried out mass rape. Should the stewards then have forced out the hundreds of Palestine flags? Even more bizarrely the most prominent speaker at the rally was Mairead Maguire, a leading figure in the international movement in defence of Assange.

So, is this expulsion action the policy of your group? If it is not, we look forward to a public apology for your treatment of a lifelong feminist and of our group.


John McAnulty
Belfast Anti-War Group

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