Protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday. Photo by npmeijer under a CC Licence.
Around 50 tents and makeshift shelters huddle together under the eaves of St Paul’s Cathedral. The crew running the kitchen, the media tent and sanitation have been on eighteen-hour shifts. The police have tried several strategies designed to destabilize and fracture the protest. The mainstream media have delivered mixed coverage, distorted coverage or no coverage at all and, naturally, the blogosphere has had a steady shower of ‘hose them down’ right wing trolls. Despite all this, the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp (#OccupyLSX) is in its third day and has held its space admirably.
The Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, Rev Giles Fraser surprised everyone with his announcement on Sunday that he supports the camp. He declared that the police should ‘stand down’ and that what happens within the Cathedral and what the camp represents are ideas that should ‘coexist’. It is magnificent to have St Paul’s as a backdrop to London’s version of this rapidly growing global movement. It lends to the ramshackle proceedings a genuine feeling that if history was to be made, the steps of St Paul’s is a fitting place to start.
And make no mistake, there is a palpable feeling that history could be made through this movement, as we are all constantly aware that those of us on these steps are not alone, that hundreds of thousands of people globally are participating in the same way and challenging exactly the same assumptions… Why should profit be put before people? Why should ordinary citizens be made to pay for the crisis caused by casino banking? Why should politics be so controlled by corporate power? Why should our children’s futures seem destined to climate chaos, resource exhaustion and perpetual war just so that big business can continue to make a profit?
Currently, what is being challenged defines this global movement and as the days go on, the Peoples Assemblies worldwide – true democracy in action – are getting closer to unifying their demands and nailing their solutions. And what is asked for is nothing short of radical system change. The analogy of starting to deal with the disease itself and no longer simply the symptoms is commonly made throughout the camp.
I spoke with hundreds of people over the past three days and am encouraged by the genuine diversity of people who have come. More than any other movement for radical change, the ‘Occupy’ movement has captured the interest of everyday people across the world, many of whom have never taken any action like this before.
Jim and Tony, a pipe fitter and a plasterer respectively, sat in the crowd on Saturday, as we all faced the steps to engage in the People’s Assembly. At first, they found the whole consensus process confusing but when we broke into small groups to discuss the issues of ‘how to hold the space’ and ‘why we are here’ they came alive, keen to use their experience to help the camp’s infrastructure get established and completely engaged in discussions about the global economic system and how it has to be changed.
‘I’ve never had a conversation like that before,’ says Jim. ‘It made me really want to help out, as what the camp is doing is way more important than any tripe the government spill out all the time. We’re coming back.’
The ‘consensus’ system and the People’s Assembly process can be notoriously drawn-out but they work. By seven on Sunday evening, they had produced a nine point initial statement of why they are here. Everyone present could look at the results and know that they took part in creating the document.
#OccupyLSX is going to stay and is going to grow. Within 48 hours they have succeeded in establishing an entire mini-community, working and functioning outside the norm. It's intoxicating stuff and I urge you to come down and see for yourself what a few of the 99 per cent are trying to achieve here.