Thursday, December 29, 2011

Occupy London protesters take over Shoreditch courthouse

The Hackney Gazette

Thursday 29 2011

Anti-capitalist protesters have moved into another disused Hackney building after taking over the old Shoreditch courthouse in Old Street.

Members of the Occupy London movement have already set up the ‘bank of ideas’ inside a UBS office block in Sun Street.

But the group - including ex-servicemen called the Occupy Veterans - have now settled inside the former magistrates’ court, which has been empty since 1996, after entering the property at 7.15am on December 20.

Protester Ronan McNern said they would be using the courthouse, renamed Occupy Justice, to “put the 1 percent on trial” by inviting people they believed had caused the financial crisis to defend themselves.

“It is not about mock trials, we have qualified solicitors who are volunteering to do these cases,” he added.

Occupy London campaigners are currently embroiled in a High Court battle against the City of London Corporation over their encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

A spokesman for developers Mastcraft Limited, who bought the Old Street property in 2008, said work to transform the courthouse into a luxury hotel was planned to start within the next month.

He said the company was pursuing taking legal action against the occupiers, which they expected to start on January 3.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Here to Stay

The Occupied Times

October 26 2011

Anti-cuts activists in the heart of London remained defiant this week as Occupy London Stock

Exchange nears its first fortnight in action - infrastructure and all.

An estimated 5000 people have passed through the sprawling camp on the steps of St Paul’s

Cathedral, with a resident population around 300.

The camp is part of a global movement against corporate greed and unregulated banking systems,

subverting hierarchies and creating a space where people are encouraged to join - with a second, growing occupation established at Finsbury Square on Saturday.

It has been nearly two weeks since the initial chaotic scenes on October 15 when police kettled

protesters, arresting eight on suspicion of police assault and public order offences.

Since then the camp has turned into a solid, peaceful working community - complete with kitchen,

university, prayer room, waste management and power generation - and speakers at the camp’s

daily general assemblies have frequently voiced plans to stay “until Christmas.”

German student Nikita Haag told the Occupied Times he planned to stay as long as the camp remained.

“I’m going to stay here as long as it exists, the thing is going to exist until we reach some change,” he said.

All work done at the camp is voluntary, with occupiers lending their support when needed.

Meanwhile food, clothing, equipment and monetary donations have flooded in; mostly gifted to the occupiers from people passing by.

One camper, Sean, told the Occupied Times he had put his experience as a civil servant to use in the

information tent, a first point of call for many visitors - along with stints in the kitchen, tech tent

and setting up Finsbury Square.

Since his arrival on the 15th he had seen the camp become more and more organised, he said: “We

spent the first week getting the structure together - the working groups - and getting people used to our direct democracy.”

The camp is founded on direct democracy, where demonstrators gauge support for various motions

and ideas at daily assemblies.

Residents and visitors alike are welcome to vote and contribute.

“Every time we have a problem we find a collective solution,” said Tina Louise, a grandmother

who had joined the movement.

But the movement has not been without tension: on Friday a spokesperson for St Paul’s Cathedral said the church was closing its doors while the occupation ran its course - despite initially supporting the protests.

The church had offered no reason for the closure when the Times went to press, and occupation

organisers told the Times they had repeatedly tried to contact the church with no success.

Nor had the City of London’s health and safety team told them of any contact with the church.

“We once again urge the Cathedral to bring to our attention, immediately, the particular details of the health and safety issues to address them,” organisers said in a statement Saturday.

“Our concern is if there are health and safety issues (which we in any event refute) by the Church failing to tell of them, they are exacerbating any perceived dangers.”

*last names withheld

Occupiers Unfazed By Eviction Threat

The Occupied Times

November 23 2011

Legal action against OccupyLSX protesters is underway, but occupiers remain unfazed.

At the time of print, the City of London Corporation was planning on taking occupiers to the high court to start an eviction process. The City considered the St Paul’s occupation a trespass on its public highways and said it was disrupting businesses in the area.

Eviction notices were served last week after negotiations between the two parties failed- the City asked occupiers to scale back the number of tents and leave by the New Year, to which occupiers asked the City to make its business transparent and democratic.

Protesters spoken to by the Occupied Times were not fazed by this recent development, and remained defiant about their cause when the eviction notices were pinned to their tents.

The notices told occupiers to remove “all tents and other structures” by 6pm last Thursday or face legal action. The tents remained and in the lead up to this City deadline, the camp’s legal team John Cooper QC, and Karen Todner talked to occupiers about the legal issues.

Cooper said they would make sure occupiers interests were “fearlessly defended” but urged occupiers to continue to stay within the law while they could work on their case.

“Right down to smallest degree you have followed the legal advice you have been given, and you have become respected for it.“

Cooper told the Occupied Times he was “very interested” in how the City had worded its eviction notice, and said ownership of the land was a contentious issue.

My clients were accused of health and safety breaches when this started and that was entirely wrong, we need to check everything.”

When asked by a camper if there was any chance the police might “jump the gun” and forcibly evict occupiers before the case went through court, Todner said it was unlikely as long as the campers “remain within the law.”

“The only way the police could forcibly remove you is if there was a public order incident and as far as I know there hasn’t been any.”

Cooper and Todner were representing the occupation at no charge.

Cooper told the Occupied Times he was doing this as it is “an example of how the legal profession do have a social conscience and it’s just me perhaps expressing that conscience.”

USA Solidarity

the Occupied Times

November 23 2011

Last week the USA occupation movement took a heavy blow as many camps were evicted, shocking and appalling occupiers in London.

Camps in New York City, Portland, Oakland, and Denver amongst others had been raided by police in the last week, while hundreds of American protestors had been arrested.

In a move of solidarity last Tuesday, OccupyLSX protesters went to the American Embassy in London to protest the actions against the USA raids. Most prominent in participants’ minds, was the raid earlier last Tuesday in New York City, where police forcibly evicted occupiers from their Zuccotti Park camp.

Five American citizens, with their passports in hand, demanded to be let into the Embassy to voice concerns over the USA evictions, there was a crowd of about 30 protesters at the Embassy, who were out-numbered by a heavy police presence.

Occupier Adam Fitzmaurice, from LA was one of the US citizens to speak to the Embassy representatives. He felt the USA was hypocritical about human rights.

“I want to know why Secretary of State Clinton feels comfortable demanding dictators such as Mubarak and Assad respect and allow peaceful protest while the NYPD, Oakland PD, Denver PD, and others across the US brutally gas, pepper-spray and beat peaceful protesters to suppress dissent.”
Emma Davies, an American now living in London was outside the Embassy to express “solidarity with all the occupy protests across the world.”

She said she was heartened to see “the brilliant displays of resistance -people going back to reoccupy, it’s clear the protester aren’t giving up they will carry on demonstrating.”

Another American supporter, Taryn Ladendorff was visibly shaken by the New York events.

“I got really emotional about it I could hardly believe it had come to this.

“One of the most important things about being an American is the right to protest and the right of freedom of assembly – the right to let your voice be heard especially in a peaceful way.’’

She said the actions in the USA went against everything she was taught about freedom as a child.

“They really hammer these kinds of rights into you as a child, when you grow up you realise they are not real but there is something visceral about seeing them being taken away from you over and over again.’’

The Art of Activism

The Occupied Times

November 23 2011

Punk-inspired designer Vivienne Westwood has told occupiers to regain their fighting strength through art.

Westwood spoke to occupiers at St Paul’s on Saturday, and said what they were doing was “absolutely wonderful.”

She spoke out against consumer culture, and said people should put more effort into appreciating the arts.

“An art lover is a freedom fighter; it gives you strength in your whole life. The opposite of that is people who just suck up consumerism and don’t have any formed opinions….they are just distracted by rubbish,” she said.

She said this mind-set had meant a lack of art today.

“We are completely in danger from lack of culture.

“We were all trained up to be consumers in the twentieth century: throw away the past, the future will take care of itself, catch the latest thing and suck it up. We don’t have any art today.”

She urged occupiers to rejuvenate themselves when visiting the nearby art museums tired them.

Other than offering her praises and support to the occupiers, Westwood also spoke about climate change, an issue she was “terrified” about.

“The financial crisis and the ecological crisis are an absolute match for each other you have one because you have the other.”