Assured Assange Worth The Wait

Julian Assange’s speech at the Union today was greeted by the longest queues in living memory and a positive reaction from the 800-strong crowd.

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WATCH The Tab‘s Word on The Street from after the talk

Julian Assange’s speech at the Union today was greeted by the longest queues in living memory and a positive reaction from the 800-strong crowd.

Assange pulled no punches in slamming those against his website, including companies like Mastercard and Visa for their role for costing Wikileaks 5 million dollars in their financial embargo. He also blasted the New York Times for not giving support, and accused private companies of “mak[ing] our history no longer safe” by controlling what is recorded.

Even though the talk was limited to Wikileaks and its impact, the assured Aussie was defiant on the work of the website currently, declaring that releases today on India represent “six million words…shaking the Indian parliament as we speak”.

He also claimed that the press leaks of information recently on the major players in Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain were so that “the West couldn’t stand up and support the principles involved.”

This was part of his larger warning of an internet war for liberation “only just beginning”, with “attacks from the very peak of media power and financial power in the US, and across the world more broadly” trying to control freedom of speech.

Despite his hard-hitting words, Assange appeared confident but composed as he addressed the chamber, starting his talk by pointing out how the Cambridge Union itself had been formed in 1815 to try and stop censorship.

And the several jokes made throughout his speech saw his relaxed, lighter side, commenting on how he did not think a Saudi porn site could exist, and observing drily the “great big opera” that seems to spring up wherever he goes.

Assange’s persuasive style left a strong impression on many of the members watching what was his first public outing for five months.

Ailis Creavin, a Homerton fresher, commented that it was “very interesting to hear things from his own perspective”, while Tim Worrall, a Jesuan, agreed, adding that Assange appeared “slightly guarded but well considered.”

Shishas meant a relaxed wait for some in the queue

Meanwhile, Keshav Thirumalai appreciated him “acknowledg[ing] the hypcrisy of his own organisation”, and thought him “intellectually honest…though he does seem to think he is above the law a bit.”

Queues began outside the Union from as early as half past one – two and a half hours before the doors opened – with students taking work, books and even shisha pipes to keep them occupied. Over 700 students were stood in line by the time 4 o’clock came round.

Despite the wait, one girl still ended up giving up her seat in the chamber after a security guard ran upstairs to unceremoniously eject her, taking her out past the clear signs up everywhere and constant reminders that any kind of recording was forbidden.

Union President Lauren Davidson said she was proud of Assange’s appearance: “We’re really happy he came to speak here and it says a lot about our society that he wanted to visit us.”

After the event Assange stayed for an hour talking to students who had applied to meet him.

Don’t miss video reaction to the talk, on TabTV here.