On Friday November 10th after a determined, extremely well organized and hard-fought citizens-led campaign that began on November 27th, 2022, the seaside city of Naples, Italy became the first major city in the world to formally confer honorary citizenship to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who awaits extradition to the United States from the confines Belmarsh Prison in England. The people of Naples like to believe it is a place where miracles happen, under the protective gaze of its patron Saint Gennaro and through the revolutionary will of its citizenry. And for a city dominated by the presence of NATO and the US Empire, it truly seems a miracle has again occurred as Napoli stands strongly for freedom of the press and free expression in the face of US repression in collusion with its British underling. With a new centrist mayor that pales in comparison to the previous Mayor Luigi De Magistris, who helped lead the campaign for Assange, it looked like this important, yet symbolic gesture was going to be almost impossible to achieve.
Napoli is the city where Masaniello revolted against what was then the Spanish kingdom in an insurrection that temporarily seized power from the ruling class and demonstrated the power that can be realized by the rebelliousness of the people when they are truly united in insurrectionary spirit. The story of Masaniello was recounted in historians Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker’s, Many Headed Hydra and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, by Marcus who visited Napoli last year to discuss the revolutionary and utopian spirit of the people from below and the anarchic and collective spirit of Pirates. Napoli is also the birthplace of pizza and is one of the most beautiful cities in the world as it sprawls along the volcanic coast from under the shadows of Mount Vesuvius and through the recently trembling Flegrean Fields. Napoli is also the reigning Italian football champion after a seemingly miraculous season. But there is a growing tension in the air.
The genocide being carried out by Israel and the United States on the Palestinian people is at the forefront of many people’s minds and in Italy street protests and school occupations in solidarity with Palestine and against the policies of the neofascist Meloni-led government are happening almost daily. The economy is in tatters with inflation making it extremely difficult for more and more people to make ends meet. Climate change is unleashing weather chaos that is always more devastating and unpredictable. In these dark times, the achievement by the #FreeAssangeNapoli committee was a moment of joy.
Stella Morris -Assange, Assange’s wife and international human rights attorney, was present to accept his citizenship, and Napoli is shining as a beacon to the world for freedom of the press and freedom of expression in the face of the tyranny of the United States government and its British counterpart. The current mayor, Gaetano Manfredi, presided over the ceremony which was also attended by the previous mayor and champion of justice Luigi De Magistris as well as former mayor and current councilman Antonio Bassolino who, with his counterpart Sergio D’Angelo, pushed this grassroots effort led by the #FreeAssangeNapoli committee.
The ceremony was held in the historic port side castle of Maschio Angioino.
The Palestinian community was represented in the audience with its leader and spokesperson Suleiman Mohammad Omar and others holding Palestinian Flags and at one point they led the crowd in a spontaneous chant of Palestina libera! Stella Assange Morris spoke about the intentional killing of 39 journalists (now more) in Gaza and the Israeli military’s intentional assassination of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. She decried these direct attacks on the press as a method of silencing truth and any information getting out of Gaza and compared it to the persecution of Assange and Wikileaks by the US and British governments.
Cities and towns across Italy are mobilizing for similar initiatives and Assange is set to receive honorary citizenship in Roma, Italy in January of 2024. Napoli can be a model for cities everywhere that can join with the community of journalists, activists, intellectuals, artists and everyday citizens in lighting the torch for freedom for Assange and for true freedom of the press and freedom of expression around the world. Now more than ever before the crimes of the US empire are being laid bare before the eyes of the world as our collective resistance rises like never before.
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