Voices from the Occupation
A Day in the Life of Occupy London
While the City of London Corporation was busy sticking eviction notices on the tents of peaceful people standing for a better world, the Occupy London crew were carrying on regardless. This article gives you report and footage take at St Pauls and Finsbury Square camps through Wednesday 16th November 2011. Take a look around, breathe it in…this is what democracy looks like.
Starting in St Pauls early afternoon, the mood was quiet and subdued. There was a larger than usual police presence, including seven (that I saw) PCs wearing camera helmets. Rather than standing around the edges as usual, the City of London police were walking through groups of people, mini kittling talks and generally being very conspicuous. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. While giving a smoke on the steps, I bumped into a guy called ‘Bear’. He was bouncing with excitement that his process for engagement on site had just been passed by General Assembly.
Here’s a picture.
Here’s a very excited Bear describing it.
He had been bemused by people attending General Assembly and blocking items, without being responsible for staying around after General Assembly, or at other times, to work through a proposal to get it workable. He developed this process for engagement over weeks, working with various working groups on site and testing with various interest groups, then took it to General Assembly, where it was passed.
It aims to promote individual responsibility. As people are still learning direct democracy, there are going to be hurdles. One of them, is people using the block without offering a) a justification for the position, b) a willingness to debate and review that position or c) any alternative proposal. For people so used to having no real voice in our current social organisation, complaint has become a way of life. People complain. People less often, have that complaint challenged, heard or propelled into action. It’s not like that in the Occupation. If you block a proposal, it can’t happen.
This new model is now being viewed by various Italian and French Occupy Camps as a great means of developing consensus in advance of General Assembly, and by having people who block proposals needing to commit to attend the working group responsible to contribute to improving or stopping the proposal, people start to learn what it is to be responsible for their opinion.
As things were quiet I decided to toddle off to Finsbury Square(a.k.a. my second home) and see some friends. Although, as I reached Panyer Alley, a lively debate was kicking off, which I am going to show you in full for all its messiness. Bear with it…please bear with it, it’s worth it. If you’re really struggling, go to minute 5.
What I found so thrilling about this debate was it really captured my experience of being at Occupy. Sometimes, a guy picks up a megaphone and I think ‘whata t***’, and then he blows my mind. Sometimes I really want to run away from a conversation that feels like a conflict or a confrontation, but by staying I get an insight into myself and everyone involved. This is what I hear from other Occupiers too. They are becoming articulate, present, responsible and courageous.
Arriving at Finsbury Square, the atmosphere was amazing. I’d been off camp for a couple of days and returned to find it growing like topsy! There was more art, three new marquees, the Tent City University had been completed, now had a PA system in house, carpets, chairs and a small library. First item on my agenda was to go to a demonstration on ‘Renewable Mobile Construction’, simply because I had no idea what it was. This will blow your mind. A 79 year old man from Holland, travelled all the way to Finsbury Square, and joint the camp, to teach us how to build renewable mobile structures.
Essentially, they are lightweight, cheap, easily constructed structures which can be used as housing OR installations. In the clip above, you see one module, but you can add infinite modules. We built three and stuck them together last night. This meant, you could create a 40 foot structure covered in banners which weighed about a pound, carry it along in a demonstration, turn it over on the ground in seconds and you have an instant occupation. Your sign becomes your tent. To learn more about this please go to http://www.demotech.org/ and spread to other Occupations.
Later some lovely young men came to site, set up a band on the corner of Finsbury Square and started making music.
As the evening wore on, there was a workshop on Social Dreaming in the Finsbury Square yurt, while I attended an incredible talk entitled ‘Revolt and Crisis in Greece’ covering the contemporary history of Greece. The talk was given by members of Occupied London – not Occupy London. This is an anarchist collective responsible for this blog http://www.occupiedlondon.org/blog/. For anyone who wants the opportunity to get some real news and information about the so called Greek Sovereign Debt Crisis, please go to the blog and find some startling and fascinating information and discussion so far unavailable in our media.
All said and done it was time to head home for the evening. This blog entry is intended to give those of you not able or willing to go to the camps, the opportunity to share in the experience of it. So much of the dialogue right now is about whether or not the camps should be there, what they will achieve, and the ubiquitous ‘I mean I just don’t know what they are going on about?’. Today, this blog is just about what it is, to be a bunch of human beings, sharing a space, discussing ideas, learning, sharing knowledge and creating community.