Ben and Jerry’s co-founder Ben Cohen has been arrested by cops outside the DOJ building in DC while protesting the imprisonment of Julian Assange.
The 72-year-old businessman and left-wing activist was part of a group denouncing the charges against the WikiLeaks founder.
Cohen told his 25,000 followers on Twitter on Wednesday that he expected to be arrested.
‘I’m going to join @codepink & risk arrest tomorrow (July 6) at the Department of Justice in DC at the Constitution Ave entrance at 1PM to protest the criminalization of the free press and the prosecution of @wikileaks publisher, Julian Assange,’ he tweeted, with the hashtag: ‘#FreeAssange’
Assange has been imprisoned at Belmarsh Prison in London since April 2019 for leaking state secrets, and may soon be extradited to the U.S.
Cohen said that Assange’s imprisonment was against freedom of speech.
‘Right now, unless things change, and unless we change them, freedom of press is going up in smoke,’ he declared, standing outside the DoJ.
He then set fire to a large paper document propped up on an easel, which he said was the bill of rights.
Cohen said he was setting fire to it in four places – one for each year that the Australian-born computer hacker has been kept in solitary confinement.
He was arrested along with Jodie Evans, co-founder of left-wing feminist anti war group CODEPINK, for blocking the entrance to the Department of Justice.
Photos shared on social media showed a smiling Cohen sitting cross-legged on the floor in a suit, with two police officers behind him.
When he refused to end his sit-in, blocking the entrance, he was arrested, still smiling.
The pair were detained for around three hours, and released just before 6pm.
‘UPDATE: Jodie and I have been released from police custody after being held for ~3hrs,’ Cohen tweeted.
‘It’s time for @POTUS to follow thru with his promise – Journalism is NOT a crime.
‘#Dropthecharges and #FreeAssange.’
Assange, 52, has been indicted by the Justice Department on 18 charges for the publication of the Afghan War Diary and the Iraq War Logs.
The charges stem from the website’s publication of nearly 500,000 documents leaked in the early 2010s about the U.S. conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, some of which detailed potential war crimes committed by the U.S. government
Last month the WikiLeaks editor lost his latest appeal against extradition to the United States, where he could be sentenced to 175 years in prison.
Assange’s wife Stella said they would continue to fight against his extradition.
‘We remain optimistic that we will prevail and that Julian will not be extradited to the United States where he faces charges that could result in him spending the rest of his life in a maximum security prison for publishing true information that revealed war crimes committed by the U.S. government,’ she said.
Biden, who made his support of a free press part of his campaign, has faced allegations of hypocrisy by critics for continuing to seek the imprisonment of Assange.
Cohen told Thursday’s rally the charges against Assange were disgraceful. ‘It’s outrageous,’ he told the small crowd.
‘Julian Assange is nonviolent. He is presumed innocent. ‘And yet somehow or other, he has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for four years. That is torture.
‘He revealed the truth, and for that he is suffering, and we need to do whatever we can to help him, and to help preserve democracy, which is based on freedom of the press.’
The pair were charged with unlawful entry and have a virtual court date on July 26.