Old video of Sydney march does not show 'crowds greeting Assange's return'

Old footage of a large crowd marching along a bridge in Sydney has resurfaced in social media posts alongside a false claim it shows Australians welcoming the return of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange following a plea deal in June 2024. But the video has circulated online since May 2023 in reports about protesters demanding his release. 

The video surfaced online as Assange arrived in Australia's capital Canberra on June 26 after a 14-year legal struggle with the US Department of Justice (archived link).

"Australians have erupted in joy that their countryman will soon be reunited with his family," read part of the caption alongside the video shared on social media site X on June 25th, 2024.

The footage shows a crowd marching along Sydney's Pyrmont Bridge, some holding banners that read "Free Assange".

Screenshot of the false X post, captured on July 2, 2024

The clip was shared alongside a similar false claim on Facebook here and here, and elsewhere on X.

The posts have been debunked by Lead Stories (archived link).

Assange spent seven years in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges, which were later dropped (archived link).

He was held for more than five years in London's Belmarsh prison while he contested US efforts to extradite him on a string of charges under the 1917 Espionage Act.

The 53-year-old WikiLeaks founder had published hundreds of thousands of confidential US documents on the whistleblowing website from 2010.

He became a hero to free speech campaigners but a villain to those who thought he had endangered US security and intelligence sources.

Although there were some local media reports of small celebrations for Assange in Sydney following his release, the video shared in the false posts dates back to 2023.

Sydney march

A reverse image search using keyframes from the clip corresponded with an archived page on the Wayback Machine published by Aussie Cossack News on May 22, 2023.

The caption read: "Aussie Cossack remotely addresses thousands marching at the May 20th Sydney Freedom March. Thousands marched with John Shipton Julian Assange's father to say NO to NATO and to demand the release of Julian Assange".

The account is run by Australian pro-Putin commentator Simeon Boikov, who is known by his moniker "Aussie Cossack".

Boikov has been living on the grounds of the Russian consulate in Sydney since December 2022, when he was charged with assaulting a 76-year-old man during a protest in the city.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the footage used in the false post (left) and the archived YouTube video from May 2023 (right):

Screenshot comparison of the footage used in the false post (left) and Wayback Machine's archived page (right)

Other media images from the same event show people holding signs calling for Assange's release (archived link).

Russian state media RIA Novosti also published this report about the march, quoting Boikov (archived link).

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