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