The streets of London are paved with gold and sometimes tents.
From 452 cities, to 1281 and now levelling out at 1523 cities. Warm-up events occurred in Manchester a couple of weeks ago and on a London Bridge since then, but this time there appeared to be more interest from the Media than the Police. Stuffed down the surrounding side streets like protesters in a kettle, broadcasting vans outnumbered the riot vans for the first time at an occupation.
What To Expect If You Visit An Occupation
1) Although there may be plenty of space on the first night of an Occupation, if you plan to stay with an established Occupation – particularly at a weekend, it may be worth contacting the organisers to make sure that they have tent space. Some sites may even be able to lend you a tent for the night. In the UK, many organisers have a listing on this website or are contactable through Facebook, Twitter, blogs or email.
2) If there isn’t any tent space, feel free to go along for the day or evening anyway. There are plenty of activities going on and things which you may be able to help with. Do remember that you will essentially be walking straight into someone’s living room – so be polite to the long term occupiers if you visit.
Back on the 15th October and within minutes of people deciding that they were going to Occupy! at St. Pauls, amazingly simple arrangements for toilets, recycling points, a store, a kitchen, a first aid centre and an entertainments department were already being made by working groups with consensus rule. The protesters even had toilets up and running before the first cup of tea had been drunk in the discussions!
Just a week later and there are now also outreach, international, library, legal groups and even a Tent University! More information on the programme running at Tent University can be found here.
It was amazing to see a culture spring up and take its first tentative steps in a matter of hours. Once people were convinced the Police weren’t planning an imminent eviction, there was a simple straight on with business attitude. No decisions were made unless it was by consensus vote from the appropriate working group or peoples / public assembly. Most people got an opportunity to speak if they desired, and if people weren’t speaking and maybe being a bit shy, then they were positively encouraged to share their opinions.
3) Remember to check for details of items that the occupation needs, that you can take down and donate. If you have packed your lunch, take it to the kitchen & donate it anyway. Then you can pick up a smaller surprise lunch from the kitchen yourself.
4) Be brave and try to join in any round-circle discussions that will be occurring – whether they be in the main gathering area or in smaller groups around the site. Your participation will be welcome. See what you can learn and teach in one evening!
5) If you have an alcoholic drink while at an occupation, don’t go running round like a drunken screaming banshee through to the early hours. Families (yes, people with children!) will be trying to sleep in other tents.
6) If you do stay, do not underestimate the cooling effect of concrete. It acts like a Titantic-sinking-iceberg. No matter how thick it is, a sleeping bag will not be enough insulation – remember to take a camping mat or a friendly polar bear. It may be worth taking along an insulated flask see you through the night, and if you’ve got room, what else can you squeeze in there?
7) Share the experience, spread the message and go with friends. Make sure you tell someone else who won’t be at the occupation where you are. Remember to introduce yourself to your neighbours at some point in the evening, although it would be impossible not to!
8) You may feel a little weak and stiff the following morning. But you won’t have to travel home with all your camping stuff – it can be donated to the Occupy! camp.
9) Most importantly! Have fun!
What Was The Target Of The London Occupation?
London Stock Exchange overlooks Paternoster Square and it was this organisation that was the target of the protesters’ frustrations. Although the square is already private property, the owners spent £460 emphasising this by getting an injunction addressed to no one in particular (persons unknown). This prevented Joe Blogs entering or remaining without the consent of the management company.
The only way of serving an injunction against no one in particular is to glue a copy of the injunction documents to a wall or window on the off chance no one would walk past and read it. An exhibit (SS1) was also submitted with the application for an injunction – which just happened to be available at the occupation. After having a quick read of SS1, there are a number of facts contained within as to why protester access to Paternoster Square should be granted –
1) Should the occupiers of the Graveyard decide to break from their exemplary Angelical behaviour and get naughty – the landowners are insured for rioting. Everything is fine, the owners have nothing to worry about.
2) The landowners have a legal obligation to support the surrounding community through the Section 106 agreement. They need to provide access to the shops on the ground floor of the development for recreational purposes for the protesters.
3) Access to the square for the protesters would mean access for everyone else. The shortcuts for the bankers and commuters through the square could be put back into use again allowing for precious community interaction. As it stands at the moment, the two communities are at risk from becoming detached.
4) There are suggestions listed within the exhibit that just 2000 people would have brought down the roof of the underground car park which forms the floor of Paternoster Square. The management have been reported to repeatedly deny requests from employees at the Stock Exchange to use this flaw in the design of the floor to act as a giant trapdoor.
As expected, 3000 people attended the first day of Occupy! London so the carpark trapdoor plan to catch the protesters would have definitely worked. Trading floor staff were rumoured to have even already collected a pot of money with which to buy the Lions to throw in with the protesters….
Alternatively, it shows that the management are capable of immediately presenting a plan which would allow for the safe occupation of Paternoster Square. It wouldn’t seem too unreasonable to allow for a fixed number of protesters into the Square. For a while it would be a public relations coup for the occupiers to be inside the actual Paternoster Square. But if the management are lucky, then allowing a select group inside the space could fractionate and break the movement up.
Suggestions are hereby also made that the management company have forfeited any rights normally befitting private owners as the management company are themselves organising illegal activity – contrary to that permitted within SS1. For evidence please refer to 11.3.5(b) on page 42 of the Underlease (version 14) for Paternoster Square.
Of course, occupying the financial centres of each city is only important to some people. For others, it is the action of occupying that is more important and the maintenance of a constant presence.
Presence can bring along the publicity. It is the publicity that raises people’s curiosity and it is the curiosity that causes people to become involved in supporting or opposing the occupation. At least more people become involved. It would be an interesting sight to see occupations from the one percent springing up at local job centres or NHS maternity wards.
Initial Statement From The London Occupiers
There has been some criticism that the protesters are fighting against Capitalism as if it’s some big scary bogey man when they should be constructing a logical argument to support their rampant emotions. Just a couple of hours into the kettling, laughs would erupt from the surrounding circle of Police at the sight of the size of the protesters massive queue outside Starbucks (although to be fair, this was before the Police had supplied water and portaloos). It’s trolling to suggest the occupation’s message is merely anti-capitalist. By means of a people’s assembly at the occupation, an initial statement was drafted as follows.
1) The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
2) We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
3) We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
4) We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
5) We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
6) We support the strike on the 30th November and the student action on the 9th November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
7) We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
8) We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.
9) This is what democracy looks like. Come and join us!