LONDON — Lockdown certainly couldn’t keep Vivienne Westwood down.
The designer, who has for years been fighting for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks whom the U.S. wants to extradite for alleged espionage, has emerged from quarantine only to stage a stunt in front of London’s Old Bailey criminal court.
On Tuesday morning, dressed in a sharp-shouldered canary yellow trouser suit and black combat boots, Westwood voiced her support for Assange from inside a giant birdcage that was suspended 10 feet off the ground.
A banner in front of the cage read “I Am Julian Assange.”
It was Westwood’s first public appearance after quarantining for 16 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown. Megaphone in hand, she was protesting against “the illegal U.S. extradition of Julian Assange for telling the truth about American war crimes.”
Why the yellow suit and birdcage? A spokesman said she wanted to conjure the idea of a canary in a coal mine: The birds were once used by miners to test for toxic gasses before venturing deeper into the tunnels.
Westwood believes Assange is being sacrificed for identifying “poison in the system.” On Tuesday, she blasted out messages such as “Stop war,” “Stop government and legal corruption,” and “Free Assange.”
Assange’s U.S. extradition trial is due to recommence on Sept. 7 at The Old Bailey.
Westwood’s son Joe Corré, an activist and clothing entrepreneur, was behind the protest. He said: “Assange is being persecuted for speaking the truth. The U.K. public and the international community must now urgently mobilize to shield him from the 175-year living death sentence awaiting him in the United States.”
Corré added: “Assange’s legal battle is the most important case in our time about press freedom, about whistleblowers and about holding the powerful to account through the media.”
This is certainly not the first time that Westwood and her son have campaigned for Assange.
Last summer, the designer took to the stage at the Imperialism on Trial event in East London to voice her concerns about the treatment of Assange, who is being held in prison here, by the British government.
He was charged in the U.S. in May 2019 for publishing classified documents linked to U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Before being moved to prison, Assange had been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 after the country granted him diplomatic asylum. In 2019, Ecuador withdrew its asylum protection and Assange was arrested and jailed for breaching earlier bail conditions.
Westwood visited Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy to show her support and even sold T-shirts to raise money for him. At the time, he was living at the Ecuadorian embassy to evade a trial for an alleged rape in Sweden. He denied the charges, and that case was eventually dropped.