A wild, weird, wired, wet weekend in London Town

It began sedately enough with a small assembly on the steps of St Paul’s. Activists returning from the Stop ACTA demo joined us after defending internet freedom and privacy rights. We discussed the upcoming series of assemblies ‘Creating Alternatives’, to be based on nurturing connections between community groups and grassroots campaigns. These assemblies will look at ways of working together which take us out of the competitive ratrace, away from notions of victimhood, and towards community empowerment. We’ll be considering Co-operatives, a Community Bill of Rights and the notion of ‘The Commons’… alongside topics brought to the assemblies by participating groups. This series will begin on June 16th and will continue throughout the Summer, every Saturday at 2pm on the steps of St Paul’s, culminating in a community picnic on August 19th (location tbc).

It was a sunny Saturday so some of us continued sitting on the cathedral steps after the assembly wrapped up. Thus we were treated to the sight of several hundred nude and semi-nude cyclists (plus a few scantily-clad skaters and scooterists) participating in a mass Naked Bike Ride to promote cycling and cyclists’ rights. This was impressive, beautiful, slightly shocking and seemed terribly, eccentrically British… although we later discovered that naked bike riding is a global phenomena. American and Japanese tourists who’d obviously never experienced the phenomena in their own countries were flabbergasted. Especially when the entire procession became embroiled in a traffic jam and came to a halt wound around the cathedral. “In front of a church!” exclaimed one, while trying not to catch the eye of a naked person… nor to stare too long at flabby or private body parts. When propriety proved too difficult she closed her eyes.

Next stop, the London Green Fair in Regent’s Park. A whole festival surrounded by city towerblocks – quite surreal. Wholesome foodstalls, fairtrade clothing, crafts, eco-products, bars and music. Lovely. Luckily, still sunny. The Occupy London Energy, Equity & Environment group met here and sat chatting in the park until dusk, stumbled across by an Occupied Times editor, some Finsbury Square folk and a few Anons.

Having found my way to the latest Nomadic Occupy Camp in Ion Square Gardens, Tower Hamlets, I caught up with the nomads’ news around a fire. I heard that relations with local residents – who had arranged portaloos for the camp and many of whom visited daily – were good. Preparations for a court hearing were in progress, however, and there was some disagreement amongst the camp’s inhabitants over whether to fight the case or simply slip away to the next site. Some felt that having cleaned up the park they had evidence to prove that Nomadic Occupy provides a valuable community service and that they could petition for temporary camping permits. I slipped away to bed while the debate continued.

Having slept well in a borrowed tent I was woken by scorching sun on Sunday morning. It looked to be a perfect day for catching up with the Diggers2012 who were en route to Windsor to reclaim disused Crown Estate land for an eco-village settlement, so I took a train out of London, hitched through a police cordon and joined the Diggers. I later wrote about our adventures for The Occupied Times: Diggers2012, A Walk to Windsor

On Monday London (and much of Britain) was treated to monsoonal weather and the Nomads were in court. Their pleas to remain in Ion Square for another two weeks were rejected and they were given until 9am Wednesday morning to depart. At a hastily convened and rather damp meeting there was consensus to move to a new borough. Overnight it was decided that Hampstead Heath would be an audacious but appropriate move.

By Wednesday morning I was back in Yorkshire and the Occupy Nomads were ensconced on Hampstead Heath. The Nomads told reporters that they were “building a space for political discussion” in an area of the Heath known as the Vale of Health. The Vale is managed by the City of London Corporation so the Nomads were poking an old enemy. They managed to stay on the Heath for less than 24 hours before being threatened with arrest if they refused to pack and leave… but during that time they highlighted controversy over plans to commercialise the area, as well as refocusing attention on the continuing existence of the Occupy movement in London.

Evict us and we multiply.

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