Media circus descends on Assange's embassy hide out

Story highlights

  • The modest Ecuador Embassy has become the site of a media circus
  • Julian Assange supporters scuffle with police and pump revolutionary anthems
  • Perplexed shoppers from nearby Harrods side-step the gathered TV crews
  • Twitter lights up with support, government lines, and gags

Outside a modest redbrick block behind the Harrods department store in west London, a media circus is taking place.

Well-to-do shoppers laden with bags side-step the TV crews clogging the pavement, asking what all the fuss is about.

This is no ordinary apartment block but the Ecuadorian Embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has just been granted asylum in that country and is holed up inside the building.

Assange supporters sport 'V for Vendetta' masks and pump revolutionary anthems including Rage Against the Machine's "We are Legion" and Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."

Scuffles broke out earlier between campaigners and police officers, captured on film by 10 times as many cameramen and watched by handfuls of resigned-looking residents.

    Just Watched

    Waiting for Assange to make a move

Waiting for Assange to make a move 03:14
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Assange granted asylum in Ecuador

Assange granted asylum in Ecuador 02:42
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Can Assange leave London?

Can Assange leave London? 05:07
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    2010: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

2010: Why the world needs WikiLeaks 19:33
PLAY VIDEO

Reporters pack the alleyway beside the building, in case Assange makes a bid for freedom in a getaway car. But CNN's Atika Shubert at the scene says this is the same alleyway used by Harrods' delivery trucks.

The Australian sought refuge at the embassy on June 19 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over accusations he sexually assaulted two women.

    Explaining the reasons for granting asylum, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said Thursday there is credible fear that if Assange is sent to Sweden, he could be subsequently extradited to the United States, where he could be charged with espionage and treason.

    Assange published thousands of secret U.S. government documents in 2010.

    We know he is still tweeting. At 2.30pm London time he posted his thanks to the Ecuador Government in Spanish: "Gracias a Ecuador y ustedes."

    He may have seen supporting tweets from across the world, such as that from documentary filmmaker Michael Moore who urged campaigners to rise up: "OccupyWallSt calls for people to head over to British consulate in NYC now 2 protest UK threat to raid Ecuador embassy."

    The British Government insists the UK still has a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden.

    As the British Foreign Office tweeted: "We are disappointed by the statement from Ecuador's Foreign Minister that #Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian #Assange."

    It is a sentiment that prompted the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño to hit back: "We are not a British colony. Those times are passed."

    Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt however, remained pragmatic, posting: "Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary."

    Meanwhile, the Assange gags continue to roll in on social media. Photos of taxi drivers apparently called to the Ecuadorian Embassy with signs to pick up one Julian Assange have been retweeted hundreds of times.

    Then there's Darth Vadar, who joked on Twitter: "Ecuador gave WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange assylum. Apparently, Wookieeleaks founder, Chewbacca, is heading there now too."

        CNN recommends

      • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

        As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
      • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
      • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

        Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
      • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

        It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.