Thursday, November 24, 2011

Safety in the Camps

The Occupied Times November 16 2011

Keeping female campers safe has been an important issue discussed over the last week at OccupyLSX.

At last Thursdays general assembly occupiers discussed any personal safety problems they had experienced, and how they can keep women safe in the future.

While most females said they generally felt safe within the movement, it was people outside the movement, who passed through the camps at night that they were wary of.

Teenage occupiers B* and Ella* told the Occupied Times they both felt safe , especially since they had been adopted as substitute daughters to people within the camp.

They said unwanted male attention within the camp was ‘’annoying’’ but they never felt threatened.

Zena,* a student who had been camping on and off for the past few weeks at St Paul’s, was quick to state she felt safe within the movement.

“I think the majority of people here are on the same vibe, there’s not really a lot of violence or dodgy stuff going on that I have noticed.’’

She said she felt as safe at the St Paul’s camp as she would anywhere else in London, and is as aware of her safety as she usually would be.

“I’m not doing anything I wouldn’t usually be doing, I’m not out late by myself at night, and I’m around people all the time if I want to go somewhere I ask someone to go with me.”

She said her main concern was people outside the camp trying to cause problems, like drunken revealers stumbling past.

Natalia, also a student echoed her sentiments, and was particularly grateful for the Tranquillity group, who patrol the camp through the night, keeping an eye out for trouble.

While another woman, who did not want to be named, said she understood why women would feel vulnerable camping out at either occupation.

“I feel fine, but it (women’s safety) is a real issue in protest camps, the nature of them usually means there is a male majority here.”

She said she would not feel comfortable on her own tenting in the city, due to passers-by.

It is the people passing by in the night that the Tranquillity group are most aware of.

The group is made of men and women who patrol the camp from 10pm until 8am, some of who have worked in security in the past.

One of the tranquillity members, Bear* said the group urge “mutual respect,” so people can sleep.

They do not get physical with anyone, rather “purely negotiation and dispute mediation.”

They try and reason with those causing trouble and steer them away from the tents, but if anyone does feel threatened, they call over the police.

Weekends in particular were proving difficult for camper’s safety, said occupier Lisa Ansell.

She had come across people intentionally antagonising protesters, looking to incite trouble.

“We are in a real bind. We have no authority to protect the site; we don’t have the right to ask people who are not in the camp to behave in a certain way because this is a public space.

“We are firmly peaceful and keep repeating ‘you will not find a fight here’, and try and move away from them,” she said.

*Last names/real names withheld.