Tag Archives: occupy lsx

Occupy Revival

I wrote this for the Occupy London website.

At an Occupy Assembly on March 1st 2014, two years after the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp was evicted from the City of London, Occupy activists reclaimed the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.

Joined by peace and environmental campaigners, anti-fracking protectors, union reps, individuals concerned about local and global injustices – and curious passers’-by – the occupiers held a General Assembly, heralded by the familiar Occupy cry: ‘Mic Check!’

At least a hundred people gathered on the steps to listen to updates from the Occupy London working groups which have continued to meet and work, largely out of the media spotlight, since the OLSX camp was evicted. Speakers from the Energy, Equity and Environment group, Economics group, Occupy Faith and Strategy group gave updates, followed by a rousing call to support the protectors on the frontline against fracking, in Barton Moss (Salford) and beyond.

Consensus was reached – with unanimous wavy ‘jazz’ hands – for Occupy London to offer full support to peaceful anti-fracking campaigns and camps everywhere. There was also formal agreement to set up a new Occupy London Democracy Action group, with a remit to explore working towards ‘a vote that counts’, with a mass action focused on Parliament to be planned for the autumn.

Peace pilgrim Earthian spoke briefly about his time in the OLSX camp, his peace mission to the Middle East in 2012-2013, and the continuation of his journey in 2014. More information on Earthian’s mission and the reasons behind it can be found at earthianblog and  on the New Internationalist website (The One Man Peace Mission; Around the World, One Border at a Time).

Occupy supporters Michael Gold (radicalsoapbox.com) and Peter Dombi (ourbrokensystem.com) offered to begin developing a new website for Occupy London, and were given consent to do so.

Part way through the assembly, as cramp began to set in from sitting on steps still cold despite the spring sunshine, a chance to move around, stretch legs and get interactive was announced. The assembly split into four groups, each discussing a different topic: Democracy; World Issues; Alternatives to Austerity; and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Such was the enthusiasm for the task that the co-ordinating facilitators found it difficult to gather everyone together once more to share what had been discussed.

One person from each group was eventually persuaded to feed back to the assembly. In the short time available the groups had only time to scratch the surface of their chosen topics; yet enthusiasm for talking about the big issues, about politics and the failings of current systems, was palpable.

One participant, formerly of the OLSX camp, said:

“There needs to be more of this kind of thing – of genuine participation and listening, sharing of stories and experience, pooling of wisdom and skills and resources. Ordinary people have so much more knowledge and power than we allow ourselves to believe – or are allowed to believe, perhaps. We need to get out on the streets, first just to talk to each other, then to demand something better. Those who hold the power don’t represent us and that has to change.”

As the assembly drew to a close – timed so as to avoid conflict with Evensong at St Paul’s – Peter Deane, an Occupy supporter who is also involved involved with a Luddites 200 group, asked the gathering to give formal support to a May event organised by Scientists for Global Responsibility, Corporate Watch and Luddites 200. The event – Breaking the Frame – aims to bring together radical thinkers and activists to look at the politics of technology and related issues. Having been assured that the message is not anti-technology but about returning technology to the people, and that Occupy working groups are amongst those invited to contribute, consent was given to support and publicise this event.

Watched over by cathedral staff – concerned, perhaps, that the assembly intended to stay the night – an open platform was provided for announcements. Those gathered were introduce to grassroots’ group Syria Peace and Justice; a firefighters’ initiative We Save People Not Banks; and Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT). Thanks were given to Occupy London for support given to CAAT, thanks were given to the facilitators of the assembly for their co-ordination of the event, and details of future events were shouted out. A call to occupy payday loan stores on May Day received a warm response, as did an announcement by peace campaigner Simon that he and friend Maria intend to sail to Syria in an open dinghy to raise awareness of the situation in Syria.

The final speaker of the day focused on the rights of squatters and homeless people. Having outlined the absurdity of ascribing criminality to those who “commit” rough sleeping, this passionate activist wrapped up the assembly with a cry of “Whose streets?!” to which many responded enthusiastically “Our streets!”.

The assembly then dispersed, but conversations begun on the steps of St Paul’s continued in squares, cafes, pubs and squats, late into the night.

Livestream of the assembly is available: bambuser.com/channel/OccupyLondon

 

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Evict-iversary

It’s a year since we were evicted simultaneously from the OLSX camp outside St Paul’s and from the School of Ideas. We were ragged and emotional and exhausted then, and jubilant, and disoriented. We tried to list what we’d achieved while occupying and did our best to sound confident about future incarnations and plans, but there was genuine grief alongside some genuine relief that Occupy #1 was over. (Here’s Inka’s eviction film for a reminder of that night: http://vimeo.com/38035802)

Last week I saw my dad for the first time in two years. He gave a slight smile as he asked whether I thought Occupy had made a difference and I launched into an attempt to persuade him that it had. He cut me off to tell me that yes, it had made a difference. My dad’s no radical and yet he felt we’d said some things that needed saying and that we’d said them loud enough to be listened to… and that we’d been taken seriously and real things had changed as a result. Wow. I was so surprised to hear him say these things that I let him digress onto another subject without elaborating on exactly what he thought had changed as a result of those cold months of community in the churchyard.

Sometimes it seems that we’re chasing our tails, bogged down in internal squabbles, unable to drum up enough support for our actions to make an impact. Ten years ago millions marched against the Iraq war but Bush and Blair launched the bombs anyway; so even numbers, even mass global popular support, doesn’t necessarily win the day. But… ten or so years before that we won the poll tax battle and now… there are relatively small but significant battles being won again.

Here’s a video showing what happened with that squatted library – Friern Barnet. The ‘polite revolution’ – a collaboration between Occupy and the local community – eventually came good. However, Occupiers at Battersea Adventure Playground had less success. After camping in the snow they were summarily evicted; and very soon the quirky, much-loved playground had been destroyed.

Looking at the bigger picture, Shell has backed away from its Arctic oil drilling venture for now, Cumbria has rejected the idea that nuclear waste should be stored in stunning, geologically unstable Lake District countryside, and the fight against extreme and polluting energy – dash for gas, fracking, tarsands – and against free-for-all genetically-modified farming continues. Increasingly, it becomes apparent that corporations lie and spin, politicians are in their pockets and ‘science’ is twisted to suit the moneymen. Spinwatch blogs on the Mark Lynas affair illustrate this pretty well and EDF Energy’s cynical attempt to quash dissent via means of bankrupting ‘No Dash For Gas’ climate activists shows how low they’re prepared to go.

The usual “ok, that’s what you’re against but what are you for?” question can increasingly often be answered (it seems to me) with some combination of the words ‘community’, ‘co-operation’, ‘mutual aid’, ‘solidarity’, ‘self-organistion’, ‘real food/farming’, ‘local’, ‘permaculture’, ‘organic’ and ‘return of the commons’.

I’m leaning towards an anarchist, rather than socialist, approach… and yet there are things that I’d like to see organised by the state or government via the levy of fair taxes, and a decent National Health service is the first amongst these. It was good to hear a few days ago that the closure of the Accident & Emergency departments at Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Central Middlesex and Ealing Hospitals is to be halted, pending an independent review. As campaign group Save Our Hospitals points out, this temporary reprieve is just the beginning of a long battle.

I wonder whether we couldn’t sort out housing ourselves, without so much government input, if we weren’t strangled by bureaucracy. I’d like to see more co-ops, more co-housing and eco-housing projects that don’t have to get tied up for years jumping through inappropriate planning hoops. It should be made easier, not harder, to build low-impact dwellings on disused land, as the latter-day Diggers have done at Runnymede, and putting disused buildings to use as short-term housing stock or social centres should be seen as regeneration, not criminality. Self-Organised London instigated a whole programme of free educational and social events at Eileen House with the tagline “Reclaim Regeneration”; but within days a possession order was granted by a high court judge. The authorities would rather see neglected buildings filled with empty echoes than the buzz of community camaraderie.

Which brings me to the Occupy squat crew, who’re still going strong and building their own community – the relationships forged in tents have lasted through moves into, and evictions from, about a dozen disused buildings across London during the last eight months.

Meanwhile, Earthian’s journey seeking peace for the Middle East continues and I very much recommend his blog.

If you ever wonder what else ex-Occupiers are up to, the Occupy London fortnightly newsletter is worth a look; it contains a wealth of information and news on a wide range of subjects interesting to those of a radical or Occupy-friendly nature, and future editions can be emailed to you fortnightly if you sign up via the OL website (sign up box is in the right hand column).

For an even more massive range of news and opinions from around the world check the Occupy News Network which recently put out a shout for more material: “Local struggles to international ones, technology to revisiting the simple life, commentaries and first hand experience… all welcome. If there is a burning issue you wish to address, please bash it out and relieve the stress and we will look at publishing it.”

It’s four years since The Big Green Gathering was cancelled and bankrupted in an apparent attempt to stop grassroots organisers and climate activists enjoying themselves too much in the Mendip Hills. The smaller, phoenix-rising-from-the-ashes Green Gathering will be held on a stunning site just outside Chepstow on the weekend of 1-4 August. Last year Occupy made a big impact in the Speakers’ Forum at the Gathering and there was a great atmosphere throughout the festival all weekend long, but participant numbers were on the low side. I’m hoping this year will be the one that really recaptures the Big Green Gathering spirit. I’m helping look after the Green Gathering twitter account; if you think you might be interested, please follow @Gathering_Green 😉

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Walking the Bounds: 6 month anniversary

A message from Ben, who was a fellow tent-dweller at OccupyLSX in St Paul’s Churchyard.
I am now standing in your tent. There are only imaginary batteries.
Now I’m checking in at Tranquility.
The tech tent is very quiet.
There are tourists in the kitchen tent.
Now I’m in my first tent. Near the tree behind meditation.
The library is very quiet.
It is sunny in Tent City Uni and Info. Just met Max in the Geodome.
Now I’m in my tent.
Obi just came to visit me in my tent.
So much passion and energy went into our being there; some of that lingers still. The wide grey open space rustles with ghosts like an old battlefield, a stone circle, a ruined castle.
In our minds and hearts, the tents remain.
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Post-LSX

Sometimes you don’t realise how hard something is until it’s over. A battle. Parenthood. Divorce. That kind of thing. Camping all through the winter in the city, unexpectedly, with strangers, with increasing numbers of vulnerable people demanding that you care and attend to them (whether you like it or not). Unexpected. Attacks out of the blue, barbs of abuse piercing deep in moments of exhaustion, aimed by agents provocateurs, perhaps, or egoists; people with axes to grind or chips on their shoulders, or hidden agendas or drug habits or histories of abuse or fragile mental health. People with anger-management issues shouting at cops and cops circling ever closer, peering into your tent, your little nylon bag of precious private space. Chewed up in the back of a bin lorry.

I loved camping on the pavement between the Cathedral and the Stock Exchange, on land straddling sacred churchyard and public highway… I did. I was in my element, in the elements. Tent tied to sandbags, until someone slashed the guy-ropes during a storm and the meditation tent was slashed too, collapsed and landed on a seventy-one-year-old poet. Everything got wet. When the temperature dropped into the minuses then the bone-cold set in and sometimes it was like a fever. I fell in the snow and it hasn’t stopped hurting yet.

The snow was beautiful. The snow weighed heavy on the tents and our drinking water fountain froze and I was carrying water butts filled at nearby businesses at gone midnight. It was beautiful and it was hard.

In the first week post-eviction I couldn’t talk about it, when I tried to talk about it I gulped for air and my mind skittered away like a pebble on ice. I couldn’t talk about it. Lump in throat, tear in eye… “Are you glad it’s over?” and “Yes I am, it had to end”, so why am I sobbing? Why does Finsbury Square feel more like home than my own home?

It’s not the end, just the beginning of what really matters, but it’s the end of that shanty town of lost souls and I poured so much of my soul into that shadowed stretch of cobbles, bits of me are left behind, tougher to prise off the pavement than the chewing gum deposited by… who spits chewing gum onto the churchyard slabs?

Mind skittering off. I can’t really talk about St Paul’s. Best times, worst times. Through it all the bells, those bells, marking time and the days and nights counting down to eviction and the treadmill of court proceedings, adrenaline highs going nowhere, fight or flight screwing insides tight. Tents chewed up in bin lorries. Shanty town community. Gallows humour. Dysfunctional but less dysfunctional than what we ordinarily consider normal. If normal is don’t talk to anyone in the street or on the tube, don’t talk to your neighbours, stick your headphones in so no one disturbs you, keep the windows up in your car, when you get home bolt the door and put the chain on and turn the TV up and insulate everything and insulate yourself and don’t hear anything, don’t listen to anyone, don’t care don’t care don’t care……

I cared too much and I didn’t cry and now the dam is cracking and now I am crying.

It’s just the beginning, okay…?

At the moment it feels like swimming upstream against a fast flowing river after tumbling from the top of a waterfall and getting tangled in river-weed. Hard to catch breath, little headway being made but not going under.

We haven’t forgotten what we’re fighting for.

Real democracy, justice, accountability. An end to tax havens, an end to secret deals in the corridors of power. Put the brakes on the corporate takeover of our world. Expose corruption. Re-prioritise at a global level. People and planet before profit. Build networks of collaborative, co-operative communities.

Dust off our knees, pull the river-weed out of our hair, regroup and get on with it. Occupy minds, Occupy streets, Occupy education, Occupy the media, Occupy debate.

Occupy is a movement of superheroes. Everyone can be an Occupy superhero. Occupy.

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Robert Montgomery’s Poems

Here’s an interview I did on the subject of some wonderful pieces of poetic art by Robert Montgomery, who ‘works in a poetic and melancholic post-situationist tradition’. Check his website for pictures of the poems in full billboard glory and simplicity. These poems have been printed, with the poet’s permission, in the Occupied Times this week.

I was interviewed by Brian Leli, an American writer and photojournalist.

BL: Can you please tell me your reactions to the three poems and the three issues they touch on?

Poem One:
IT TURNED OUT THIS WAY COS YOU DREAMED IT THIS WAY, COS ALL YOU COULD DREAM IS WHAT YOU SAW IN MAGAZINES, AND THIS IS HOW IT FEELS TO WIN, AND HAVE EVERYTHING, ALL THE LUXURY AND POWER YOU EVER WANTED AND STILL FEEL DISGUSTED. RONALD REAGAN BLUES / A MILLION DOLLAR HOUSE IN L.A. / 50 FUCKING WHITE ANAEMIC STARS MY DARLING AND ALL THE BLOOD AND DUST OF THE WORLD ON YOUR HANDS

Me: This is the world I rejected twenty-two years ago when I stepped off the conveyor belt. I don’t think I had the wisdom at the age of twenty to know exactly what I was doing but my intuition or fate or the stars or perhaps my genetic inheritance guided me towards an alternative way of being. I ‘dropped out’. Spent the intervening years gaining the experience, knowledge and skills necessary to drop back in to the heart of the beast now. I don’t hate the people who have it all or those who want it all. I certainly don’t envy them. I’d like to remove their blinkers and walk them to a gentler, stronger, more joyous place.

Poem Two:
THERE ARE WOODEN HOUSES ON LAND IN FAR-AWAY PLACES THAT DON’T COST MUCH MONEY, AND STRINGS OF LIGHTS THAT MAKE PATHS TO THEM GENTLY, AND DO NOT TURN OFF THE STARS. AND 100 BLACK FLAGS OF ANARCHISTS HELD UP AT NIGHT 100 MILES APART / 10,000 MILES OF FLAGS AND A ROW OF TENTS IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL GUARD OUR FUTURE. THERE WILL BE A QUICK SICKNESS, THE KIND THAT KILLS THE BODY BEFORE THE MIND KNOWS THEN THERE WILL BE A SLOW RISING

Me: The first sentence sends a tingle up my spine and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end because it speaks my truth. These places exist not just on the other side of the world but in the quieter, wilder, hidden places of Britain too. The ‘authorities’ try to squash them because they represent freedom from the rat-race that binds us into lonely dis-satisfaction. Simplicity is dangerous for those in power. How will they continue to squeeze us for their own benefit if we don’t need them or desire to be them, if we’re happy in our wooden, fairy-lit shacks in our communities? Ah… yes… that’s why they’re so afraid of Occupy. We’re re-learning the value of community, co-operation, resourcefulness. We’re rejecting their media, their feel-bad advertising. We’re over-throwing their system right in front of their noses for a change, rather than hiding ourselves in backwaters for fear of reprisal.

Poem Three:
BECAUSE YOU HAD TO GIVE NAMES TO EVERYTHING YOU FOUND, AND MAKE LOGOS FOR BAD IDEAS, AND CHANGE YOUR CAR EVERY TWO YEARS AND WAKE UP EARLY FOR CONFERENCE CALLS, AND IT TURNED OUT TO BE NO PROGRESS AT ALL / JUST A SHADOW FESTIVAL / BECAUSE OF THAT YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO LOOK AT THE SKY AGAIN, YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO EAT FOOD THAT GROWS WHERE YOU LIVE AGAIN, YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN TO TOUCH WHAT YOU MAKE

Me: Yes. It’s that simple.

BL: Do you think it’s important to see pieces like this going up in public spaces, particularly now, when the tents themselves are coming down?

Me: Yes. Reclaiming public space, not just with tents – although tents are wonderfully symbolic as well as practical – is vital. Art, music, poetry, performance, debate, conversation… these are the things that bring us together, that lead us out of our isolation, that allow us – the 99% – to connect, to share and eventually, to mobilise. Every attempt to stimulate conversation regarding how we live now and how we could do it better is valuable.

BL: To the onlooker who’s perhaps not particularly concerned with the issues referenced, what do you think the potential impact is when stumbling across the messages on the billboards, or through a protest camp for that matter?

Me: Some will be too entrenched in the current system, or too ground down by it, to even see the poetry or the tents. Others will be baffled. They’ll ask “What’s it all about?” and “Why aren’t these people also ground down, why aren’t they busy struggling to fend off insolvency? Where do they get the time or energy to play with words and canvas?” Asking questions is the beginning. Questioning not just the artists and campers but one’s own self, the neighbours, the woman sat beside you on the bus or in the laundrette. “What’s it all about, these scruffy tents appearing everywhere? They want to change the world? Hah! What do they know? Do they know about my family’s problems, our debts, our poor treatment at the hands of an over-stretched NHS? They want to change the world? Well, hah, they’re not the only ones!” Eventually, I hope – oh how I hope – that these messages will help humans to realise we’re all on the same side and that we can change our world for the better if we act together.

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OccStock & the Snow

A creative collective of Occupy supporters chose February 4th to bring their diverse talents to St Paul’s Churchyard. The event was billed as ‘OccStock’, a thankyou to the hardy Occupiers as well as a chance to showcase local artists and bring diverse communities together. Co-ordinator Gee knew it would be cold but didn’t expect to be rewarded for his gift of entertainment with the most magical stage-set imaginable – a cathedral and an encampment blanketed in snow.

Punks with snow-frosted pink mohawks like candy cupcakes danced beside joyous lawyers and a bewildered Kosovan intent on explaining that “It snows one metre in my country, goes to minus twenty degrees, this is nothing!”

It wasn’t nothing to the rest of us. We danced on a snow-covered artificial lawn laid over the Churchyard cobbles. Snowballs were thrown. Snowmen and snow-women – and snowAnonymous characters – were built and given masks. Previously careworn activists gambolled about like chunky children, dressed in thirteen layers of thermals.

Musicians and poets mingled with Occupiers and curious city folk between sets. Lexi James Jr, Andy Secret, Robbing Eden , Smoky Love and Anna Savage gave it their all beneath a dressed-up gazebo, glad to share the bone-chill and exuberance of the crowd. The Common headlined with rhythms that made grooving imperative. For a finale Savannah Stone performed a heart-felt poem, confessing after whoops and applause that she’d been “…so scared to do this”. The whoops and applause amplified as Savannah stepped off the makeshift stage into the arms of proud friends.

Music over, hot chocolate was served and tents were shaken to prevent them buckling beneath the weight of the snow. Emergency space-blankets were handed out and the Occupy LSX Tent City University – newly lined and carpeted to provide a bedouin-style ‘winterised’ space – took on its night-time character as a dormitory for those with nowhere else to go.

St Paul’s Churchyard lived this night. Public space was reclaimed – by Occupy, by artists, by the snow which blurs boundaries between highway and pavement, city land and churchyard. As those behind OccStock say “We can start to change society for the better by reclaiming our time, space and freedom bit by bit and step by step.” As we shovelled snow at midnight, the smiles spoke to that.

https://vimeo.com/36284765

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A winter week… in the Life of LSX Occupier Hazel Hedge

It takes a while to get dressed when being dressed means wearing a pair of tights and thermal leggings under trousers with a vest, thermal under-shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, jumper, cardigan, hooded jacket and sheepskin waistcoat, plus 3 pairs of socks, leg-warmers, scarf, hat and gloves. And that’s just for the daytime.

Occupy is training in ‘radical patience’. I’m not sure who coined that term but it’s a good one. Patience with the challenging behaviour of a minority of camp inhabitants, with the fickle media and the grinding justice system. Patience with direct democracy and consensus decision-making. Patience with the process and the laborious getting dressed.

Good things happen – Arctic ice floes, Occupied Justice trials, vibrant General Assemblies. Occupy National Gathering in Sheffield was inspiring. But it feels like a waiting game now. Waiting to see if the court will hear our appeal. Waiting to see whether we’re to be evicted… this week, next week, one week, two week…

There’s an odd, unsettled energy in the camp. Some people seem to be in fight-or-flight mode, adrenaline buzzing around around their bodies, nowhere productive to put it. Others are determined to make every day count; to prepare, to protect, to strengthen relationships, to celebrate our achievements.

It’s a funny old time. When the journalists ask how I feel, I say – “excited”.

I am excited. We’re about to be born from the womb of St Paul.

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Another week… in the Life of LSX Occupier Hazel Hedge

Week number??? Recalculate, recalculate… oh dear I’ve lost track.

Being kept busy.

Writing for the Occupied Times and collaborating on press releases for the Occupy London website.

Tweeting and retweeting fascinating, funny and frightening facts. Also working to improve financial responsibility and internal communications of Occupy London. Check the Forum for more on these subjects.

Helping to clean up after violent storms and vile tent-slashers. Working with the Shelter Working Group to find tents and bedding for new recruits to Occupy LSX.

Attempting to improve the output of our solar-power system at St Paul’s.

Managed to squeeze in a friend’s wedding in the wilds of Cumbria. Discovered that absence from camp combined with no internet access for 36 hours engenders Occupiers’ Anxiety Syndrome.

There’s been a complete overhaul of the Bank of Ideas; Occupied Justice is planning its trials of the 1%; the Finsbury site is plotting its vegetable plots; and at St Paul’s we’re all packing in as much education, entertainment and outreach work as possible while awaiting Judgement Day and considering which affinity group to join should there be an eviction.

Some Occupiers will undoubtedly adopt a stubborn stance – “We will not be moved! (until you drag us out forcibly)”. Others counsel a dignified voluntary downsizing at St Paul’s on the basis that we’ve done what we came to do with the LSX camp and now need to free up our energy for outreach and other work. I’m inclined to this viewpoint, so long as we retain an ‘Embassy’ at St Paul’s from which to interact with press, public, church and city and providing we continue to hold General Assemblies on the cathedral steps – more so when attending them is not a battle against wind-chill factors that not even tights, leggings, trousers, three pairs of socks and seven layers on the top half can withstand.

 

 

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Occupy 2012

Looming evictions combine with a desire to stay fresh, engage more people and keep on kicking the system. There’s a vertiginous sense of standing on the brink of something massive, of making history… and a parallel fear that Occupy could stumble and disappear down a crack leaving only a cyber-echo and a few thousand flyers to remember us by. The one percent would surely like us to shut up and go home now but in assembly after assembly strident voices reject that idea. New Year resolve is strong.We’re here to stay.”

For some Occupiers it’s all about the tents. Symbolic tents, tents for practical reasons, strategic tents, even tents as costume for comedic effect. Tents allow a sustained presence and protest that has proved so much more effective than one-day marches and demonstrations. Tents make Occupy special and there’s no way all the tents will be packed up… and yet many envisage Occupy 2012 looking a little different.

Occupy is ingenious, Occupy is branching out in multiple directions. There are so many things wrong with the current system; so many methods of protesting and raising awareness; so many different priorities; a myriad potential solutions. Evolution, revolution, direct action, dialogue. There’s no need to choose one route, one tactic, one answer. Occupy is strong in its diversity. Occupy can and will mount attacks on all fronts. Peacefully.

There will be more occupations, of buildings and land. Outreach to schools and community groups will expand. Watch Occupy work with Transition communities, permaculturists and co-operatives to set up practical, grass-roots alternatives to current unsustainable systems. Finsbury Square may become the first Occupy eco-village. There will be solidarity actions alongside Unions, low-paid workers and students. Tent City Universities will go On Tour. There may be excursions into mainstream politics. Church liaisons are likely. Temple, mosque and synagogue liaisons too and perhaps a strengthening of links with the quietly radical Quakers. Look out for General Assemblies springing up in town squares and on village greens across the land.

Occupy London’s Criminal Investigation Unit will be delving into the dirty secrets of the corrupt and greedy elite. There are plans afoot for an Occupy festival and an Occupiers’ Handbook. A diploma in Occupied Economics was launched by Tent City University in the last days of 2011. Button badges and pop-up debates will tickle the fancies of city-workers and tourists. Flash mobs, street theatre and Occupy Circus will provide generous sprinklings of irreverent frolicsome fun and to balance that there’ll be more tough learning and hardship. Dedication and a commitment to the long-haul will be required for building the kinds of communities we dream of. Everyone – including the top dogs at the Cathedral but perhaps excluding the City of London Corporation – is keen for Occupy to keep a presence at St Paul’s, where we can keep the London Stock Exchange in our sights and maintain a steady pressure on the City.

The Occupy Movement is not going away. On the contrary, it’s a hydra sprouting new heads daily. Preparing for crisis, planning for Utopia.

Come, join us!

Sheffield will be hosting the UK National Occupy Gathering January 21-23.

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Week 9… in the Life of LSX Occupier Hazel Hedge

Occupy has its ups and downs. Living cheek-by-jowl on the city cobbles in winter, with a bunch of disparate rebels, isn’t easy. I mentioned this to a wise old man who said  “Well, you didn’t expect revolution to be a walk in the park did you?”.

The City of London Corporation is attempting to evict us for obstruction of the highway. I sat in court for a couple of days and found the witness statements on our side humbling, moving and inspiring. There were chuckles, tears and standing ovations from the public gallery. The Judge appeared genuinely interested in the peculiarities and importance of the case and gave us a stay of execution until at least January 11th. He will be weighing the evidence over the holidays.

On the one hand: An immature ragtag movement is claiming that democracy, the economy and the earth itself are in peril; therefore there is a pressing social need for us to continue stimulating debate, raising awareness and campaigning for change… and that in order to do those things effectively we must remain in our strategic and symbolic location between St Paul’s and the London Stock Exchange, right in the heart of the corrupt CoL.

On the other hand: The City of London paints a picture of a gang of rowdy wastrels frightening innocent city workers and school children, clogging up the pavement with banners and buskers, peeing in corners and making the place look untidy.

The City has some valid points. It’s true that the camp has attracted homeless and mentally ill people; consequentially there is a certain amount of challenging – sometimes downright disruptive – behaviour. However, OccupyLSX didn’t create these people and behaviours out of thin air. One of the camp defendants pointed out in court that the City of London has been a major contributor to the exact social problems that have now landed on its doorstep – and that this could be considered poetic justice.

The Judge asked whether poetic justice is a good thing or a bad thing. Our defendant said “It is instructive,” and we all waved our hands in the air.

Whether the camp’s evicted from St Paul’s or not we’re a strong community now and we’ll stick together to fight for what we believe in.

An end-of-year Occupy round up looks something like this:

There are 950 occupations worldwide, approximately 25 in the UK. A national Occupy conference is held in a different city every month. Live-stream links occupations across the world. Occupy has more online platforms than anyone can keep abreast of (in London alone we’ve half a dozen websites, a forum, a handful of twitter accounts, facebook pages, wikis, livestream, youtube, mumble and tumblr). The Occupied Times is eight issues young and going strong, the Occupiers’ Toolkit has been widely disseminated and an Occupiers’ Handbook is being created. Time magazine’s Person of the Year was The Protester and in column inches Occupy is definitely a winner. Links are being forged with Transition communities. Occupy Edinburgh has the blessing of the city council. Quakers support us. We’re in dialogue with the faithful from churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. Teenagers are putting Occupy messages on youtube and ordinary people are discussing the big issues on buses and in laundrettes. School parties are taking educational tours of Occupy encampments and museums are archiving the OT for posterity. Bishops, American preachers, financiers, famous musicians and a billion journalists want to talk with us.

We must be doing some things right… but where to from here?

Occupy 2012 may look a little different.

See my next post…

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