Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Week in the Occupy Movement - Day 3

Voices from the Occupation
A Week in the Occupy Movement – Day 3

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I am involved with the Occupy Movement, is ‘what is it like?’  The news may occasionally cover where Occupy is, but often not what, why or how Occupy is.  So, today’s article gives you my ground eye view of the Occupy Movement last week – and covers Day 3.

The first thing to mention is the Occupy movement is a rapidly evolving and changing thing.  The atmosphere and tone doesn’t simply shift by camp, but by day.  You might have a horrid time on the Wednesday and think everyone has gone mad and the movement is in decline.  On Thursday you realise those tough conversations the day before were necessary, something blocked has shifted and the movement surges on into a new space, as do the personal relationships within it.  Occupy is simply a bunch of people working toward a better world.  Some of those people make me laugh every day, some of those people I find really challenging, all of those people I love.

Exposing the Met

I received a call from a journalist at the Hackney Citizen.  He wanted to meet.  He had submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Metropolitan Police regarding the Stop & Search policy they implemented in Sun Street (Bank of Ideas) and Finsbury Square on November 30th (the ay of the public sector strikes).  He had been put in touch with my blog and read my coverage of the day, including video footage of police stopping and searching anyone moving in or out of the Bank of Ideas or Finsbury Square.  The police had responded to his FOI request stating that although they had placed a Section 60 on Sun Street and Finsbury square that day, no one was stopped and searched.  This would contradict masses of anecdotal and video evidence of the day.

I met with the journalist and managed to gain a receipt from an Occupier who had been stopped and searched on Sun Street that day.  The receipt gives the date, the time, the location and the fact that it was under Section 60.
This means the Met Police gave a false response to a Freedom of Information request.  The Hackney Citizen is now covering the story. Please watch for further developments, or by all means make your own complaint.  If you were stopped and searched on November 30th in those areas and have video or a receipt: please get in touch via my twitter account.

The Geodesic Dome Arrives!

 The dome in pieces.

The first element of the construction of the new Finsbury Square EcoVillage arrived in pieces, ready to build this morning.  A good few members of the camp worked together with help from the owner of the dome, to construct it on site.  I took some footage of the building in process.  The team also built a proper pallet walkway, with a nice ‘yellow brick road’ undulation in it from the top end of the camp to the Kitchen, with a stop off at the doorway of the dome.  The dome was immediately renamed the GA Dome, and will be used for working group meetings, General Assemblies and other work related purposes.

 The Dome in one piece.  Perspective is off, it is huge and seats 20-30 inside comfortably.

The newly constructed path across site. Chicken wire is being fitted across the top so no slipping in the wet.

One quarter of the inside of the dome, looking from the middle of the dome to right hand side of the the rear windows.

Looking up at the ceiling inside the GA dome.

While I was filming a young man with a quite wonderful black beard came over to let me know his mum loves reading the blog.  I thought for a moment ‘Oh is she Pat?’ I asked and he smiled proudly.  We spoke for a little while about the movement and life on camp.  He’s a fabulous boy Pat, you must be very proud, and a pleasure to finally meet him.

There is alot of work still to do, this is just the very first step towards the creation of a sustainable EcoVillage at Finsbury Square.  However, the creative energy, skill and team work evident on site makes this an exciting time to be at Finsbury Square.  Moreover, a great thing to happen in Islington.

The Short-lived Occupation of the Bank of Iraq

 The Occupy London Banner drop at the Rafidian Bank

While filming the GA Dome build, I did not think that in a few hours I would be smoking a cigarette on the roof of the Bank of Iraq. 
There was social media callout: meet at the Bank of Ideas on Sun Street to walk to a new occupation.  The purpose: to continue the work of the Bank of Ideas on a new site.  After 10 weeks of occupation, the Bank of Ideas has delivered over 300 lectures, seminars, and events from the likes of Caroline Lucas MP, Mark Thomas, Jeremy Hardy, Thom Yorke and Massive Attack.  The building’s owners, Swiss bank UBS, have won their attempt to evict the Bank of Ideas from their premises at Sun Street. As imminent eviction was awaited, a new location was sought to continue the work, including the Free University Campaign.

 The Rafidian Bank 7-10 Leadenhall Street, London

At Sun Street, I joined an affinity group of 4, and we set off to Rafidian Bank, 7-10 Leadenhall Street.  We were invited in through the high steel gate on Whittington Avenue, walked up 7 flights of the fire escape, and into the Bank through an open fire exit door.  Once inside, we set off in all directions to explore.  There were many offices, lots of mahogany, dark corridors.  There was a hexagonal security desk in one room with many button filled panels; on the surrounding walls, brass plaques inscribed with New York, London, Paris – the clocks long since removed.  It was exciting, to think of what could be done with this enormous and beautiful space, which had been empty since before the Bank’s liquidation in 2008.

Workers from the neighbouring office building came out onto their fire escape to chat with us, asking questions about why we had occupied the building.  A woman gave us the thumbs up and told us ‘You have to stand for something in this world. Well done’.  We got whoops and waves from the street below.  Police helicopters circled overhead and the early police presence left for a while.
I felt really proud to be a part of this new occupation as it happened and able to cover it from the inside.  It was scary and exhilarating and a bit confused.  The key thing was the Section 6 (squatter’s rights) was in place and we were waiting for more people to come across with infrastructure from the Bank of Ideas.  After several hours, I was out of battery on my phone so walked around to Starbucks to charge it up and get some tweets out.  When I returned, the street was full of police vans and most of the people I knew inside were outside looking confused.  I tried to figure out what was going on.  The police were claiming that although the building had been empty for years and was being liquidated by PwC, that it retained its diplomatic status, as former Iraqi Embassy.  Despite actually being a disused Bank.

There was shouting in the street as people yelled at the police to stop breaking the law.  There was confusion about the diplomatic status of the building.  We pitched calls to the legal team and tried to get a straight answer from somebody.  But time was running out.

The police declared they would evict anyone inside the building at 1745hrs under Section 9 – giving us less than 30 minutes.  Media and protestors were asked to clear the area, and then forcibly removed.  Finally, the whole of Leadenhall Street was evacuated by the Fire Service who claimed they had been notified of a strong smell of diesel in the building. 
After a tense standoff, three arrests, lots of un necessary pushing and shoving from the police and a small GA we agreed to leave. The Rafidian Bank now remains empty, rotting on its foundations while the search for a new Bank of Ideas continues. 

A Little Bit of Racism....
During the scuffles I found myself at the side of the police line, filming.  A young woman reacted to being filmed by putting her middle finger up at me.  She then told me to ‘Get back to my own country’.  I responded ‘Excuse me?  I am in my own country you racist’.  To which she replied ‘Get back to your own country if you don’t like our laws’.  A fellow Occupier remonstrated with the policeman who witnessed the incident to support, but we were told to take any issue to our local police station.  Apparently, you don’t have protection from racial insults on a police line.  The video of the incident is below.

Back to St Paul’s for the One Love Weekend

I walked back towards St Pauls for the General Assembly, held on the steps.  My back was killing me from all the walking and step climbing and I was feeling a bit odd after the police and racism.  Luckily, on the way a sea of Critical Mass bikers went past ringing their bells and taking up the whole road.  It made me smile and cheered me up.  By the time I reached St Pauls I was bruised and achy but had computed the incidents of the day.  There was music, some speeches, some words from occupiers on the eviction which we, at that point, assumed to be over the weekend (This was the Friday evening, after the 4pm deadline on the postponed eviction).
One resident of St Pauls, a homeless man named Joey, who works ten hour days working on the critical and unenviable job of recycling at the camp, and this night - a little drunk, interrupted someone speaking at the mic.  After the Facilitator calmed him down a bit with a cuddle, he was asked to the mic to speak next and get out what he needed to say.

He took to the mic and immediately and humbly apologised to the crowd for his earlier outburst.  He said he wanted us to know that he was struggling and he was sad.  He felt so at home and he was just really sad that the police were going to take his village away, and he would lose his new friends, his new purpose.  He cried as he spoke but his voiced stayed clear.  It broke my heart.  No one will miss St Pauls as much as the incredible homeless people who form part of its number.  While presented in court as a place where homeless people ‘take advantage’ of the camp, the reality is there are many homeless people on the camp who have found their purpose again.  They suddenly are in a community again, making a valued contribution, with a say over how things go, a roof over their head and three hot meals a day.  There has been much debate about where next for the movement, but this might be the community which is going to be the hardest hit if we are prevented from gaining another, more sustainable site for Occupy LSX, as Finsbury Square is already full.

Another Occupier came to the mic after Joey and said simply ‘Don’t be afraid Joey.  We aren’t stopping, we aren’t ending, we are just beginning and everyone is welcome’.

Back to Finsbury Square

I walked back to Finsbury to see the GA Dome had lights in the windows.  I poked by head in, and despite it being 10pm, the GA was still going!  There had been a long debate and they were just about to take consensus on the matter.  I asked for the background.  The camp was deciding on a proposal from the Housing Working Group to evict people who were staying on the camp but not contributing.  Controversial.  I had been mulling this one over for some time.  Essentially, there are about 5 tents at Finsbury (including one tent entitled The Finsbury Hotel) which have people staying in them who no one sees or hears from until a) meal time, when they come in and grab food and take it back to their tent or b) in the middle of the night playing music and drinking while people try and sleep.  It’s quite frustrating when you’ve had a hectic day, its cold, you are avoiding getting up to have a wee because you can’t face the dark freezing walk to the portaloo – and a bunch of eighteen year olds is keeping you up playing tinny music from an iPhone and talking more loudly with each can of cider.  It has been an ongoing problem which has been discussed.  I’ve generally avoided dealing with it.  I don’t live on site permanently so it is easier for me to tolerate.  How did I feel about asking these people to join a working group or leave?  I asked more about the principle.  The principle is, any and all contributions on site are valued equally- whatever working group you join, whether you are the ideas person, the get your hands dirty person, a builder, a writer, a cleaner, and you can also be all or any of those things at anytime.  Your participation is yours to create, but the rule being proposed says ‘you need to participate to stay in a tent on camp’.  If the proposal was agreed, the working groups were to meet the Housing Working Group at 10am the next day – to ask those people to leave.

I thought about it and decided to stand aside.  This means I let the GA decide without me and would abide by their decision.  I did this because something about the proposal bothered me, but I couldn’t work out if it was just me wanting to ‘be nice’ rather than be practical.  I don’t want to tell anyone to leave, even though they’ve done nothing but irritate me for weeks.  But neither am I going to stand in the way of the camp, which is restructuring itself as a long term, sustainable working eco-village. I didn't use my block because I don't believe that the proposal is inconsitent with the principles of the Occupy Movement as I understand them.  In fact, in my belly, I feel that a good work ethic on the camp is paying big dividends.

I made my own proposal at the GA, which was for Joey from Occupy St Pauls to be given a tent here when St Pauls is evicted, and for him to join the Waste Working group.  I’d been asked to raise this while at St Pauls.  Before I could start on building up the proposal, there were nods and a couple of people said things like ‘Man Joey, he’s a legend!’ The proposal got consensus straight away and I contacted St Pauls to let them know.  I went to sleep that night smiling.

A Week in the Occupy Movement - Day 2

Voices from the Occupation
A Week in the Occupy Movement – Day 2

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I am involved with the Occupy Movement, is ‘what is it like?’  The news may occasionally cover where Occupy is, but often not what, why or how Occupy is.  So, today’s article gives you my ground eye view of the Occupy Movement last week – and covers Day 2.

The first thing to mention is the Occupy movement is a rapidly evolving and changing thing.  The atmosphere and tone doesn’t simply shift by camp, but by day.  You might have a horrid time on the Wednesday and think everyone has gone mad and the movement is in decline.  On Thursday you realise those tough conversations the day before were necessary, something blocked has shifted and the movement surges on into a new space, as do the personal relationships within it.  Occupy is simply a bunch of people working toward a better world.  Some of those people make me laugh every day, some of those people I find really challenging, all of those people I love.

Home to Finsbury Square

I make no bones about this: I love Occupy London Finsbury Square.  I have been camping there sporadically since its 2nd week last November.  I have the utmost respect for the decent and level way that Islington Council, responsible for the public space the camp resides on, has dealt with our camp.  They are clear that we are trespassing, but have endeavoured to help us to keep the site clean, safe and open to local people who want to use the space.  Of course they would rather we weren’t there, but we are there, and the Council are working with us to make the best of the situation.

Moving In

I arrived on Wednesday lunchtime, heavy back pack on, cold and a bit nervous after the Bristol thing.  The Media tent, the Info tent, the Tech tent, Tent City University, the Library and the Theatre, all of which used to stand on the front of the site were gone.  A night of terrible storms had struck a week or so before.  The marquees had not simply blown over, but the strong winds had buckled the aluminium rods which made up the core of the structures.  They were ruined.  The frontage of the site was distinctive at Finsbury and without it, water logged, and muddy on a grey day, it looked like a bomb had gone off.  The Kitchen tent remained at the rear of the site, the living tents (around 150) run in rows down the left side of the camp, but everything from the right side, the shrine, the event tent, was gone.  The normal sawdust path through the centre of camp bisecting the residential area and the communal spaces was gone aswell.

I trotted over to a young guy I had never seen before who looked like a member of the Velvet Underground and sighed a little when he saw my rucksack.  ‘We are absolutely rammed’ he said, waving a hand toward the tents. ‘Everyone has been coming down from the Bank and we’ve had a couple from St Pauls.  I’m rushed off my feet’.
Both the Bank of Ideas and the St Pauls site had received their possession orders in recent days so some campers were making for Finsbury Square in advance of an anticipated influx at the point of eviction.  I explained to the guy, who I established was a new member of the Housing Working Group called Raffie, that I didn’t have a tent as I donated one to camp – happy to sleep in whatever tent was available when I come down.  I sensed Raffie was a bit under the cosh and told him I’d sort myself out.
I went from tent to tent, opening the zippers to check for occupation.  On finding one blissfully empty, I occupied it.  Quickly unpacking, laying down my roll mat and sleeping bag, and setting the number on the tent.  Freed of my bags I set off to the only communal space left to seek out anyone I knew – Luke gave me a big hug and a ‘Hey Kerry-anne!’, which made my day.  Later Margarida and Leo appeared.  It was good to be in my second home.

Building the EcoVillage

Settling in the kitchen, an EcoVillage meeting was due at 4pm to talk about transitioning OccupyLFS into an eco-village.  This means building a demonstration of a sustainable community, with as many renewable materials, utilising renewable energy, and principles of recycling and waste control.

The meeting ended up being about eight of us from the site discussing the build.  So, the reason Finsbury Square looked like a building site that day, was because it was.  Piles of timber stood in the middle of the square, men with tools and a purposeful pace whizzed by.  It was mentioned that a geodesic dome was being delivered on Friday morning and a team was needed for construction.  People in the meeting volunteered and it was taken to General Assembly that evening for greater engagement. 
There was also a not-so-happy letter from the Council about various things on site which needed to be addressed, so I took on calling the Council to set up a meeting for as soon as possible.  During the meeting, we checked with each working group about which things on the list had been completed, most had been, and where things were outstanding we took an action plan with timescales to be followed up at GA.
I left the meeting afterwards quite overwhelmed by the pace at which things were moving on camp.  Even in the hours I had been there, the piles of timber were becoming structures.  It has become a working camp; the atmosphere at Finsbury is warm and engaging, and busy.  People ask you to get involved and do things.

Bye Bye Bank of Ideas

With some time to spare before heading to the St Pauls General Assembly that evening to test the atmosphere nearing eviction, I nipped over to the Bank of Ideas to take a last look round before its eviction.  At the time, we thought it would be evicted that night.  There were police vans in the street and a nervous atmosphere in the Bank.  The Bank of Ideas has been in occupation of a disused UBS Bank office building for ten weeks.  In that time it has seen over 300 lectures, seminars and events from the likes of Caroline Lucas MP, comedian/activist Mark Thomas, Thom Yorke and Massive Attack among many others.  Local youth and community groups who had lost or could not find premises have used offices and spaces in the vast building.  It has also provided residential space for Occupiers and the homeless on its upper floors – between 60 and 100 staying at any one time. The central idea of the UBS occupation, is the public reposession of empty buildings, to be put to social use by the local community and the Occupy movement.

I entered via a side door, rushed in to avoid police, to see people milling around sweeping the floors and filling bin liners.  I skipped past and began a tour of the building, scaling the stairs and checking the nooks and crannies.  I found so much art I hadn’t seen before.  So, I’m going to hand it over to pictures to show you the rest.

 Mural by T.Wat 
 Spiderman occupies the old reception

Unfinished OccupyLondon mural in a corridor

Woman and Free Gaza tag in window on ground floor

Graffitti on a wall upstairs

The film above shows just one of the art filled office rooms in the gigantic building.  Almost no surface was left unadorned.

The film above was taken on the roof of the Bank of Ideas at night, showing the view across the City.

I left the Bank of Ideas feeling sad that we were going to lose that building.  It seems to me, simply unjust, that a building which has been of so much public use has been reclaimed, simply to sit empty and rot on it's foundations.  The building got more use in those 2 months than it had in the last 2 years.  But the Bank of Ideas goes on in search of a new home, and the campaign continues.

GA at St Pauls

Fresh from the amazing adventure at The Bank of Ideas, I made my way up to St Pauls after 7pm for the General Assembly.  The General Assembly is where the big issues, decisions and proposals for the camp and the movement are raised, debated, and decided upon by consensus.  Yes, that means everyone must agree.  Yes, that takes longer than a single authority making a decision.  No, that does not mean we vote on things.  After a proposal, a temperature check is held, people make had signals to show if they like or dont like a proposal.  There is a symbol called the block, a raised fist, which means 'I am so opposed to this proposal that I will leave camp it is passed.  It is completely against the principles of the Occupy Movement'.  One of these stops a proposal.  The blocker then needs to work with the proposer to get to an agreement.  These dont happen very often, but they do happen.

This night's GA was taking place inside Tent City University at St Pauls as wind and rain pelted the marquee.  The topic of this GA was internal and external representation of the Occupy Movement. The question was: is it useful for people to present themselves as spokespeople or ‘members’ of the Occupy Movement when talking with the media or external agencies, if what they are talking about hasn’t been approved by the general assembly e.g. the consensus of everyone.  The central point seemed to be, we all have our individual opinions and if we send these out into the world as if they are the views of the Occupy Movement, it can unsettle and disenfranchise others.  There was unanimity that the best way of dealing with this was something most people had taken on instinctively, which is to state that our views are our own.  There was also some debate about 'airing our dirty linen in public' i.e. you have a bad day, get interviewed by the press and say 'I hate this camp, its full of tossers!'.  Some argued that people should remember they are on film and that what they say can be used against the movement. Others argued that any suggestion of inringements on peoples speech or 'maintaining the party line' behaviour was simply recreating what most of us hate about mainstream politics.  I came down on the side of the second argument.  I think it is personally irresponsible of anyone to gossip, about anything or anyone,  Its unhelpful and it doesnt solve the issues which have caused the upset.  And, there is a difference between gossip (for instance, going to the media saying Joe Blogg on site is mean to you - you should take that up with Joe Bloggs) and when asked a direct question by the media, giving an honest account, while being clear that it is YOUR account.  I figure that the mainstream media will say what they say and any time spent scuplting messages to make them more palatable or airable or attractive starts us on a slippery slope from principles to popularism.  Well intended, but misplaced 'loyalty' can end up stifling all sorts of critical dissent, vital for the movement and all of us to learn and grow.

Secondly, we discussed the question: could you be a member of the Occupy Movement?  As opposed to a supporter, or someone affiliated or involved with the Occupy Movement.  An organisation or party has members, does a movement?  But if all of us are merely supporters/affiliates – then what is the occupy movement if it isn’t us?  It was a brainteaser.  But important.  The sense of identity that people have about Occupy does have a big impact on their level of ownership and responsibility.  In the end, after toying with the ideas, we agreed it came down to personal perception.  Occupy is a movement, and anyone who has given time or effort to supporting the movement, can consider the Occupy Movement their own.  Rather than them being of it, it was them.

Finally, a statement which had failed consensus 6 weeks previously at general assembly, receiving just one block, was back for review.  The rule of the block at St Pauls means that any one person can block consensus. However, if you block, you are responsible for meeting with the working group which raised the proposal and achieving a revised proposal to achieve consensus.  If you do not engage the working group within a certain time period (weeks) then you are considered to have withdrawn your block.  This makes thoughtless blocks less likely, and establishes a process for resolving real blocks.
The statement was being brought back for re-reading, and to update people that it was now considered passed.  A vigorous debate set up.  Some felt a new consensus was required on the Statement as 6 weeks had passed and new people were at this GA.  Others felt that the process meant that it was passed, and to over ride the process meant effectively reneging on the consensus of the previous General Assembly.  If people wanted to make changes to the statement once it was online, they could make a new proposal.
While this might all sound a bit pointless, I was riveted.  The decisions were about honouring process, no matter how we feel – or honouring our feelings.  After finding myself mentally on both sides of the argument, I finally got it.  If you have an agreement, you honour it.  If you think that agreement no longer works, then you get responsible for reworking the agreement.  As a life principle, this is pretty robust.  People know where they stand, you know where you stand, and if something really isn’t working it can be changed.  But not on a whim.

End of Day 2

I walked home to Finsbury Square regaling my wife with the tale over the phone and she got that a small conversation in a tent outside St Pauls, was bigger than it looked.  How we create and honour rules in a society is fundamental.  It is the bedrock of our relationships, our work, our laws and legal system and our politics.  One of the issues we have right now is the lack of any kind of rigorously, consistently and equally applied rules.  It was refreshing to see a group of people so engaged and committed to creating rules that work, and applying them.

I nestled into my sleeping bag just after midnight, after a chat in the kitchen tent with fellow occupiers.

Look out for Day 3....Exposing the Met and occupying the Bank of  Iraq...

A Week in the Occupy Movement - Day 1

Voices from the Occupation
A Week in the Occupy Movement – Day 1

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I am involved with the Occupy Movement, is ‘what is it like?’.  The news may occasionally cover where Occupy is, but often not what, why or how Occupy is.  So, here are a series of articles to give you my ground eye view of the Occupy Movement last week.

The first thing to mention is the Occupy movement is a rapidly evolving and changing thing.  The atmosphere and tone doesn’t simply shift by camp, but by day.  You might have a horrid time on the Wednesday and think everyone has gone mad and the movement is in decline.  On Thursday you realise those tough conversations the day before were necessary, something blocked has shifted and the movement surges on into a new space, as do the personal relationships within it.  Occupy is simply a bunch of people working toward a better world.  Some of those people make me laugh every day, some of those people I find really challenging, all of those people I love.

A Visit to Occupy Bristol

Passing through Bristol to see my family, I received a tweet telling me that Occupy Bristol was being evicted.  I was living in Bristol on 15th October when I was invited to a Facebook Event: come to College Green at 12 Noon to join in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street.  I was stunned that Bristol was going to start an Occupy camp and was waiting, on College Green, with my wife and two other people at 12 noon sharp.  I said at the time that I didn’t expect it to get above 50 people in Bristol, but that we needed to remember we were 50 people in a global movement. 
After an hour or so, more people started to filter onto the Green.  My 50 figure was finally reached and exceeded by about 3pm, and people kept coming.  It was a bright skied day; there was singing, dancing, nervous open mic speeches by many not accustomed to forming their thoughts into spoken pictures for an audience.  I joined Occupy London when I left Bristol for a home in Hampshire two weeks later, but attended General Assemblies, hung out on camp and donated food to Occupy Bristol when I could in those two weeks.  So I felt fondly for it, and like I had a stake in it.  I always received a warm welcome on site in those early days, someone was always up for a debate and I liked the mood.

 Missing the Party

Therefore, I was somewhat crest fallen, on arrival this time to see a bonfire emitting a plume of smoke over a muddy, waterlogged College Green.  There was one tent left, and several ramshackle structures.  My walking boots stuck a little as I stepped around puddles towards a small group of what I assumed to be Occupiers, sat at a picnic bench, behind an open fire.

A young guy came toward me after settling some wooden pallets from the site onto the fire.  He held out his hand and I shook it and introduced myself as a member of the media working group from Occupy London Finsbury Square.  He was wonderfully warm and apologised that essentially, the camp was over but no eviction was happening that day.  The remaining groups were clearing the site to attempt to leave it in some order.  There were three or four young men engaged in this clean-up operation, and a couple sat on and around the picnic bench smoking and listening to the radio.  To be honest, it was a little embarrassing.  It was like gatecrashing a party two hours after it had finished and the host really just wanted you to leave.  I asked a few questions and took a few pictures but no one seemed much up for talking to an outsider.  I overheard some gossip about ‘Occupy Street’; apparently many of the Occupiers had relocated to a street with multiple squats in the St Pauls area, colloquially named ‘Occupy Street’.

I walked away to get the train home, and pack for some time camping at Occupy London feeling sad for Occupy Bristol.  The site felt dead and the people weary, bored and somewhat cynical.  I must confess to some macabre thoughts, and even some upset at the shoddy treatment I got on site.  I had a big sense of ‘where’s the flaming solidarity people?’

But, that said, I wanted to do some digging.  Those were a handful of people, none of whom I had seen on the camp before. I was keen to know where Occupy Bristol had gone, as I was clear that what was on that camp on Monday 23rd January, was certainly not it.  I didn’t need to look very hard.  

Bristol 2050: Building Bristol Together 

While the camp was still functioning, a working group was set up called ‘The Bristol 2050 Working Group’.  Bristol 2050 is a scheme run by business and the Council in Bristol crafting a 40 year plan for the city.  Occupy Bristol seeks to reclaim this process for the people.  Their aim is to engage local people, businesses, charities, agencies and campaigns to build a plan for creating a Bristol they want to live in, by 2050.  The group had their first public meeting on 21st January, at a public venue in Bristol, which drew about 60 people in and engaged them in vigorous discussion about key issues for Bristol.  I have been really inspired by the 2050 plan, and it’s commitment to calling together the diverse populations of Bristol to discuss issues which are generally left to the rarefied air of the City Council chambers.  The working group is reaching out to the Transition Town movement and Green groups in the area who have experience and a shared goal of planning a Bristol that works.

So, the legacy of Occupy Bristol, formally evicted from College Green last night, was not the mud, or the surly left over occupiers, but the conversation for a sustainable Bristol, built on social economic and environmental justice.  Watch this space for more from the 2050 working group.  I think this idea is going to catch on as a great means of outreach for other camps around the world, with or without eviction looming.  In fact, this really is one great evolutionary step for the movement, to build the society we want to create.
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