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On Sunday, May 29, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland gave the commencement speech at the Harvard University graduation ceremony for the class of 2020-21. Harvard students teamed up with Boston Area Assange Defense and other local activists to protest Garland’s speech over the continued prosecution of Julian Assange.

Mike Miccioli, class of ’22, explained why he and other Harvard students decided to use the commencement speech to draw attention to Assange’s plight:

“The prosecution of Julian Assange violates the First Amendment right to a free press. If Assange’s work with Manning is criminalized, this would open the door for any investigative journalist to be prosecuted for their standard work. If he is charged under the Espionage Act, a similar legal case could be built against any journalist who reports unflatteringly on US national security. Although he published evidence of war crimes, torture, surveillance, corruption, and more, no one in the US government has ever been held legally accountable for such exposures. Merrick Garland’s commencement speech is an important opportunity to bring awareness to this political persecution. In addition to drawing attention from the attendees, we hope to make Garland ask himself whether he wants this to be his legacy – the first prosecution of a publisher under the Espionage Act. Since Garland is Harvard class of ’74 and Harvard Law class of ’77, the university should be feeling a sense of shame for this reckless case, not inviting him to opine at the largest event on campus.”

After the event, Miccioli spoke with Assange Defense about the action:

Boston Area Assange Defense campaigner Susan McLucas said,

“After almost 2 years of helping organize rallies for Julian Assange, I was delighted to hear that Merrick Garland would be in our neighborhood at Harvard’s graduation. It was disturbing, though not surprising, to hear him encourage the graduates to take up public service (unspoken message: Just don’t try to end wars by exposing US war crimes!)”

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Jill Stein, former Green Party presidential candidate, spoke at Sunday’s rally, saying,

“Merrick Garland, you need to make the biggest gift to the future of our younger generation possible by ending this assault on our most basic freedom that establishes the infrastructure for our democracy. End the prosecution of Julian Assange.”

The protest was picked up by the Boston Globe and the Harvard Crimson. See this thread on Twitter for more photos and videos from the action.

Boston Area Assange Defense campaigner Paula Iasella recounted the effort to organize Sunday’s demonstration:

“Mike, a Harvard student, came out of nowhere last summer to one of our Boston actions, took the microphone and wowed me with his understanding of the Espionage Act and the Assange case. Mike wrote to us in April, suggesting an action at Harvard’s graduation, protesting AG Merrick Garland who was the keynote speaker.

Weeks of planning between the Harvard students and Boston Area Assange Defense made for a successful event protesting Merrick Garland’s unconstitutional prosecution of a journalist.

It demonstrated the importance of Boston’s online networking in tandem with consistent boots-on-the-ground – showing up, in person, to spread the Free Assange message while giving others space to speak up publicly for Julian.”