Londoners gathered outside the Old Bailey Courthouse this morning to see 79-year-old Dame Vivienne Westwood, in a yellow suit, suspended ten feet in the air inside a massive cage. “I am the canary in the cage,” screeched the British designer, activist, and queen of punk into a megaphone. “If I die down the coal mine from poisonous gas, that’s the signal.”
The metaphor here was a protest designed by her activist son Joe Corré —Westwood acted as Julian Assange, demanding to be set free from the cage, and the “poisonous gas” is “the gaming of the system by governments.” Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is currently being held on remand in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh Prison, awaiting an extradition hearing on September 7. (It was postponed to that date due to the pandemic.)
Assange is wanted by the U.S. government for allegedly conspiring to hack government computers after thousands of classified documents were published in 2010 and 2011. He faces 17 charges and up to 175 years in prison if found guilty under the Espionage Act. “[The U.S. thinks] that they are God’s country, that they’re the only democratic force in the world, and everyone else is corrupt,” Westwood said. “But they are the ones who are most corrupt of all.” Tomorrow, Assange’s lawyers are set to make a bail application.
Westwood, who’s no stranger to activism, left her cage to speak to the press. “If Julian gets sent to America, it is the worst thing that could happen in the world for justice and freedom of speech,” she said. “This could happen to every journalist.”