The Occupy London movement has returned to the streets, this time in Parliament Square, a far more fitting location than that of St. Pauls Cathedral where they became stranded in 2011. Outside the Houses of Parliament, where decisions are taken, they are once again coming up against the restrictions of private land and corporations. A practical media blackout has resulted in not much debate, but where the message breaks through, via a celebrity arrest or appearance, the usual questions and accusations come out to play. What are their solutions?
There is a certain element of confusion within the occupations too, as lots of people with differing agendas, ideologies and solutions come together, bound by a common belief that the current system is not working and something must change.
The mainstream media, when it’s interested, also becomes confused and searches for labels, such as anti-capitalists, communists, hippies or rich students, before setting out to prove that they are hypocrites in one way or another. But this movement is diverse and fluid and has no instant solution.
We shouldn’t get bogged down in solutions and ideologies, conspiracy theories and labels. What we need to look at is the structure and ‘real democracy’ offered by the assembly model. Essentially, Occupy LSX or Occupy Democracy, are meeting places, where people can come to find out about issues, discuss solutions and take part it assemblies where decisions can be agreed upon. The model is simple and offers ordinary people a voice in decisions.
Now. imagine meetings across the land, each bringing local people together to discuss ideas and develop solutions, all connected in a network of assemblies. This is where the real revolution can take place. By using the assembly model, ordinary people can very easily be heard and a different kind of democracy can be borne, that seemingly cannot be offered by the established system. It doesn’t have to be capitalist or anti-capitalist or be labeled with any ideology. It just needs to have recognition. Power within the decision making process.
What that future would look like and the way things would be decided is for the assembly movement to decide upon and then work towards achieving in a unified way. With great numbers and true representation of the people, change is possible. Then, finding solutions to the rest of the problems can begin.
This is how I see the ‘revolution’. A revolution that involves thinking of a new way of doing things. A revolution that doesn’t have to follow any particular train of thought. Just the creation of a network of people that has power in the decision making process.
This morning, the news is reporting that the Bishop of London has decided to stick his oar into the Occupy London debate, calling on the occupiers to finish their protest.
He says they’ve raised some good points and mutters something about the Church looking at things related to pay and suggests they pack up and go home. Quite frankly, I think he has misunderstood the intention of the protest, which certainly isn’t about a couple of weeks in the cold and then off home so everything carries on as it was before.
I wrote him an email…
Dear Rt Revd Richard Chartres
I write after reading news reports of your comments regarding the camp at St Paul’s.
I am very disappointed that you have decided to weigh into the debate in this way, specifically asking for a peaceful occupation which is trying to deal with the problems of the world to finish. These people are exercising one of the few rights left in this country – the right to peaceful assembly and protest – although watching the Police attitude on Saturday 15 October, one would be forgiven for thinking protest is actually unlawful.
Despite keeping peaceful in the face of provocation. Despite numerous problems with the media. Despite keeping up a dialogue with the Cathedral. The protesters are still facing the wrath of the media, dragging out all manner of stories ranging from everyone being lazy and unemployed, to being busy and employed (the tent saga).
The problem I have with your comments is that you give those media outlets who seem to be looking for anything negative to say the green light to up their attacks.
What we have here is not really a protest. Of course, people are there to protest about what is happening in the world, but the main thrust is not about sleeping in the cold at night and chanting slogans all day until someone in power relents and tried to reach a compromise over the issues. It is a space where people can go to speak with others and share knowledge and experiences in the hope of finding the alternative which doesn’t seem to feature in modern politics. It is the most accessible form of democracy I have ever experienced and it’s the only place I feel I really have a voice.
By continually harassing the occupation about whether they can stay or not, the debate is consumed with conversations about St Paul’s, instead of the actual issues. If the camp is moved on and there is no longer that place for discussion, what is the alternative? You may be aware that there are many protests lined up in the next few months, including action from the Unions and Students. Is the message to them that peaceful assembly will not be tolerated? It’s been so refreshing to see a protest that breaks from the mould of marching from A to B, shouting a bit, a confrontation with the police and some broken windows which provide the media with the story it wants. I am truly concerned that, if this movement is finished off by those in authority, that we will see a return to rioting within the very near future.
Let people have their voice and give them time to build. Maybe even offer them some assistance and locations to communicate in? I think you only have to look at the Police crackdown in the USA to see where we are heading. It’s dialogue and compromise which is needed here. Not dangerous ultimatums.
Boris Johnson and David Cameron have been challenged to meet anti-capitalist protesters camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral.
But while the London mayor and the prime minister have been invited to address Occupy London Stock Exchange activists, they might have to wait to get their audience. ‘Boris, you’re more than welcome to come – or any other politicians,’ protester Roman McNern, 36, said. ‘All we ask is that they put their names on the waiting list.’
Among those speaking outside the London landmark yesterday were chartered accountants discussing their fears for the economy. Labour MP David Winnick called for Mr Cameron and chancellor George Osborne to visit the City to ‘have a chat’ with the group.
The ‘calm and peaceful’ activists claim they are receiving tip-offs from bankers horrified by the economy.
A donated kitchen unit is set to arrive on site today, as the demonstrators plan to stay until Christmas at least.
Due to work commitments, I am unable to stay at the camp or spend much time there, but I did ride in this evening with a roll of gaffa tape and some rope.
After passing over the goods, I wandered round to the front of the steps up to St Paul’s, where most people were gathered at a large assembly. There were somewhere between 200-400 people, all sat down on the floor and the steps, listening to people speaking on a microphone.
Each of the spokespersons for various teams, involved in the organisation of the camp spoke, giving short updates. The kitchen was to be closed, so a marquee could be erected to house the new improved kitchen, with another one being provided for the media tent, dealing with mobile recharges and trying to coordinate people to speak to the press. They also spoke about developing indymedia to report on stories and news from the occupation.
One of the problems of camping on stone, is that there is nowhere for pegs, so sandbags were a big desire. It’s not so bad with pop-up tents (except in the wind), but a marquee? There is also a rubbish buildup and they are asking people to take bags with them as they leave the site.
Overall though, I was once again struck by something special. The atmosphere there is really inclusive. There’s a warmth in the cold air and a calm feeling. It is quite beautiful.
After the updates, the assembly proceeded with people splitting into smaller groups to talk about the overall aims. What people want to achieve. Big ideas. I had to leave, but I managed to speak to someone as people grouped up and found out the main assembly would most likely be on at 7pm each day.
Oh. And the toilets, provided by the Police during the kettling, have gone.
As I arrived at St Paul’s cathedral at about 11:30 on Saturday, there were already a few hundred people gathered on and in front of the steps. Positioning myself at the top of the steps, I could see 3 or 4 police carriers and 15-20 officers dotted around the crowd, dressed in black and white. No ‘hi-visible’ policing at this stage.
A soundsystem arrived and people kept coming, until there were at least 1000 present. Round the corner, Paternoster Square was being guarded by police. Midday came and went and the numbers kept growing, until someone got on the microphone and started inviting people to speak. People gathered round and there was a heavy media presence, but as I videoed, I was aware of noise from behind me… and looked round to see that the majority of the crowd were streaming around the corner, swelling up to the arched entrance to the square.
The police had deployed mounted officers at the entrance, blocking anyone from entering. After a long stalemate, the crowd began progressing around the square, following it all the way around, finding each entrance blocked. Eventually, the breakaway group found itself back at the square, where anyone who was left was now surrounded by lines upon lines of police. As the group spilled out into the road, the police quickly expanded the kettle, trapping everyone inside.
So, to recap, the police prevented people from getting into the square, where they would have been quite out of the way and then they ended up spread all over the place, so the police then put lines of officers across the road, preventing people and traffic from passing for a considerable amount of time.
I spoke to an officer at the scene and tried to find out why they were kettling the protesters, pointing out that it was likely to inflame things, particularly if things weren’t explained properly. ‘Don’t you have a PA system?’ I asked. This officer seemed to think they were going to be pushing the protesters into the square, but when I told him police had prevented people accessing the square, he appeared to realise he had no clue what was happening and wandered off. It’s funny how the police seem to want to speak to protesters, yet provide no obvious liason for people to communicate with them.
The police continued to surround the crowd, as it continued with a programme of assemblies, regardless. Every now and then, they would push forward without explanation, aggravating the crowd at the edges. People were gathering on the outside and being told they could go in but not go out by various rude members of the Met. After a while, the police started getting tooled up, changing into riot gear, despite no violence being witnessed. It was a rather cynical attempt to try and provoke the crowd into a response to allow them to clear the site. Or perhaps scare people. It failed and made them look like the idiots they are.
Recognising the obvious signs and having to be somewhere later, I chose to leave at that moment, reasoning that the police would never be able to sustain these tactics. Sure enough, after a tense night, with reports of people being pushed around and tents being confiscated, the canon chancellor of St Pauls came onto the steps on Sunday morning and said that the occupiers were welcome and the police should back off.
Saturday also saw the arrival of Julian Assange who, after a brief ‘discussion’ with police over his mask, was allowed in and spoke to the crowd, before being whisked away to sign in at a Norfolk police station.
I arrived on Sunday in the late afternoon, with a tarpaulin I had been unable to leave with the occupation the day before, due to the police tactics. I also brought an old gas stove and some gas canisters and some money for a donation. Police littered the streets around, with vans blocking the entrances to Paternoster Square. In the occupation itself, the place was transformed. Relaxed, peaceful, busy. Lots of tents and circles of people sitting talking about topics in mini assemblies. It was organised, with an ‘info’ point and recycling. People were collecting litter and organising food. There was a really nice ‘feel’ to the place.
The occupation has now drafted a preliminary ‘manifesto‘ of agreed ideas.
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!
On 15 October 2011, people will converge in London, with the aim of occupying space in the Square Mile, home to London’s financial elite.
The plan has been buoyed somewhat by recent events in the USA, providing news organisations with a storyline as they announce that the Occupy Wall Street protests are heading here. This can only increase the public awareness and potential attendance, however it also appears to be attracting the familiar traits of a state that doesn’t really want to make the democratic right to protest an easy affair.
Today, signs went up in Paternoster Square, the proposed site of the occupation, right outside the relocated London Stock Exchange. The signs warn that people will be guilty of trespass if they come into Paternoster Square without requiring to in order to visit businesses there. Tourists beware!
So… trespass… You may or may not have heard that they want to make squatting a criminal offence. As things stand, unless you threaten people or damage stuff, trespass is a civil matter, so it would require court action for people to be removed. But of course, some people already seem to be worried about what might happen. Fear of arrest or attack tends to cloud the desire to protest for some.
Interestingly, the Evening Standard ran with a rather inflammatory piece about police preparations for the event, something reminiscent of the hype prior to the G20 London protests in 2009.
Anti-capitalist protesters are threatening to storm the City tomorrow to launch an “autumn of action” against its banks. Activists are being urged to set up camp in the Square Mile in an effort to stage a repeat of the recent anti-Wall Street protests in New York.
Hundreds of riot police are being deployed in case of trouble and key buildings, including the Stock Exchange, will be ringed by officers to prevent attempts to occupy them. The Met and City of London police forces have launched a joint operation in an effort to ensure the protests are peaceful.
One source said: “Our aim is to minimise any disruption to Londoners and tourists who are in the area. But the groups have told us they want the protest to be peaceful so we shall see.”
One campaigner said the City and Canary Wharf had become the focus of their anger after Parliament Square became too fortified to penetrate.
Storming London? Riot Police? Trouble? It’s a journalist’s dream…
In truth, this event is likely to be a lot more focused and thoughtful than the Evening Standard would like. Talking about stuff never really seems to make the headlines. The whole point of this protest, as I understand it, is to get a load of people together to talk about the problems and try to reach workable solutions. This will be done through assemblies, which I believe will be the central focus of the occupation.
I’ve been watching the ‘assembly’ thing since May this year, as the protests in Spain were starting to filter through in the form of youtube and vimeo videos. There were also Spaniards and Greeks here in London trying to spread the word, particularly with regards to the assemblies, which were central features of the Spanish Occupations. This group has continued holding assemblies, building momentum for the occupation we are about to witness and forging links with other groups.
So now it’s time to start talking and sharing ideas. The more people get involved in this, the more representative the outcomes will be.