Tag Archives: London

Eviction | Reuters Trustlaw Foundation

Shortly before midnight a flurry of tweets, texts, emails and bicycle couriered word-of-mouth messages: “…police are massing at London Wall – police vans, riot gear, eviction imminent!”

A few minutes of uncertainty and confusion resolved when a phalanx of police and a couple of dozen bailiffs wearing fluorescent orange waistcoats swarmed into view. The police arrived on foot and in a convoy of vans. Bailiffs brought bin lorries to seize and chew up our homes.

On being told that anyone remaining in the area of the encampment would be arrested, many occupiers chose to pack and move to the cathedral steps, believing that people and possessions would be safe there. The Church had, after all, said that it would provide sanctuary… hadn’t it? In the absence of Giles Fraser – now stuck on the wrong side of a hastily erected police cordon between St Paul’s and the rest of the world – no one seemed quite sure.

As the police threw up their barriers, protected (from what?) by shields and helmets, protesters wearing pumps and cardigans built a barricade using what was left of the camp kitchen – a sturdy set of shelves, chairs, tables and pallets. Meanwhile some rushed to save tents and cooking equipment from the bailiffs and others filmed, observed or prayed.

As homes were systematically destroyed, Occupiers remained peaceful but for the first time in months a gender imbalance became evident. A number of men leapt onto the heaped remnants of the kitchen to wave flags and chair legs, to chant and yell at the bailiffs, to symbolically resist the destruction of their community.

These men were the ones in the media lens. They drew the attention of onlookers, journalists, police and court enforcers. Meanwhile women worked, largely unnoticed, in a myriad roles learned during their four months in the Occupy camp.

Nafeesa overcame nerves, technical difficulties and demands to move on. With tireless dedication she live-streamed the eviction so that those watching on screens around the world could follow the course of events. When she took a break from recording she was interviewed by the BBC. As a designated legal observer J kept an eagle eye on proceedings, making note of interactions between police and protesters, while Kai took photographs, uploaded them and communicated with the outside world via Twitter.

Only when the men atop the teetering kitchen shelves refused to descend was there any real sense of confrontation. Police moved media, observers and supporters away while bailiffs demolished the ‘fort’ beneath the occupiers, pulled them to the ground, arrested them for obstruction and took them away to the cells.

In front of the cathedral Tammy was determinedly maintaining her calm and holding a candlelit, flower-strewn vigil when police suddenly made a move on those gathered on the steps. Belongings were scattered as protesters and supporters were forced away from St Paul’s. A cry went out to ‘sit down!’ but most were too bewildered by the unnecessary and unexpected change in attitude to do so. Those who heeded the call – and those who were already sitting down, some reciting prayers – were dragged down the cathedral steps and dumped on the cobbles of the churchyard below then herded onto the street.

The last of the occupiers chained himself to a tree. It took over an hour to remove him. A last stand had been made but justice had not, in the eyes of many, been done. The Church, by either instructing or allowing police to remove peaceful worshippers from a supposed sanctuary, had done itself no favours. Occupiers, however, were not down-hearted. “You can’t evict an idea” has been joined by a new catchphrase – “this is only the end of the beginning”.

While the kitchen shelf clamberers were the heroes of the moment, both women and men are the heroes of the movement. Tammy, Kai, Nafeesa and many other less visible women will use the skills learned in the OLSX encampment and honed during the long night of eviction to continue their fight for social, economic and environmental justice into the future, whatever incarnation Occupy takes next.

I wrote this blog for  Reuters ‘Trustlaw’ Foundation

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Week 6… in the life of LSX Occupier Hazel Hedge

Lots of big discussions at St Paul’s, Finsbury Square and the Bank of Ideas.

What are our aims and objectives?

Are we a direct action group that risks alienating some of the 99% with radical stunts or a more moderate campaign group? Are we here to feed London’s waifs and strays? Or to focus on politics? Do we want to become a not-for-profit limited company, thus making ourselves a more acceptable recipient of donations from wealthy well-wishers? Or would that be a betrayal of our principles?

What are our principles? Can we agree a set of core values that all Occupiers would be happy to commit to? Should we shut down the generator and manage with the limited amount of power our winter-sun solar panels can provide?

What are our priorities for spending? Food for the homeless? Increasing outreach operations to spread our message far and wide? Direct actions that spotlight those responsible for crashing our economy and pillaging our resources? Fuel for the generator so we can keep charging laptops and phones?

Do we want to enter into dialogue with powerful establishment bodies? With the Church? With the Financial Services Authority? Are they trying to co-opt us, fob us off with tweaks to the system, jump on the bandwagon we’ve set rolling?

If we get evicted from St Paul’s will we try to keep a symbolic or informational or educational presence here? What else will we do in the future?

There are a lot of questions this week, the week that the weather finally turned and the chill crept into our bones.

Seeking answers will be challenging because we’re a movement comprised of such diverse voices but it’ll be exciting and eventually fruitful, I’m sure… and there’ll probably be some surprises in store for people who think they know what we’re all about.

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Week 5?… In the life of LSX Occupier Hazel Hedge

Unintended consequences…

I’ve developed an unexpected fondness for London. As a country bumpkin I’ve long sneered at city folk; at the rush and bustle, the lack of dirt beneath fingernails. Now, I gaze with wonder at the juxtaposition of futuristic office blocks and intricately carved historic buildings… the replica Globe Theatre with its timber frame and thatched roof… the Thames, a force of nature in the heart of the city… St Paul’s dome floodlit beneath a full moon… I like living on the London streets. I like waking up to the human alarm clock of feet pounding pavements. I like slipping invisibly in and out of shopping centres, cafes and pubs, finding loos and showers and abandoned jam scones. Read Neil Gaiman. He knows what London is like.

Gone the neat structure of weekly diary entries. Things are more fluid now. Time stretches and I’m not sure how many weeks I’ve been here.

Today we wired in our first on-site solar panel. I acted apprentice sparky, wielding screwdrivers and crocodile clips with new-found alacrity. Then I grabbed the microphone and spoke to a crowd assembled on St Paul’s steps and I didn’t blush or stammer or leave my body in fright as I used to.

Every hour of every day: impassioned conversations about politics, democracy, Palestine, ethics, war, psychology, ecology, religion, revolution and, of course, the economy. Debate as spectator sport, human rings form around conversationalists, a hush descends and we… listen. How special is that? Is this what the wreath-and-sandal-wearing Greeks did for evening entertainment? I ask a Greek girl and she says… it’s what the Greeks are doing right now. Reminding me that this isn’t just about St Paul’s, or London. This is going on all around the world.

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