Saturday 3 December 2011

A week at St Pauls

I finally had the opportunity to take a few days to head down to the protest camp at St Paul's and meet some of the inspiring people staying there. On Monday, I arrived, quite anxious. I remembered the atmosphere at the road protest camps in the early 90's - everyone used to be suspicious of strangers, with good reason given the amount of police infiltration at the time.

My fears were short lived, and I was made very welcome. I joined in with a General Assembly, offering my thanks to those who had slept out in terrible conditions and inspired the greatest challenge to the daily inequalities of capitalism. Everything was so well organised, from the info tent, to the kitchen. A prayer tent gave me some space to think. It was the closest I was going to get to a prayer space, as entry to St Paul's Cathedral was £14.50.

A lovely homeless Polish man offered to take me to visit Finsbury Sq, so off we went. Again, it was really friendly, a mix of students, young radicals, older hippies, and those with nowhere else to go. Good people and good food.

The 'Bank of Ideas' really was splendid, just a few metre's down Sun Street from the Finsbury encampment. The former UBS building was now adorned with political banners 'You can't evict an idea!'

Inside there was a radical cinema space, dormitories, kitchens, workshop spaces, libraries - and again, a prayer and meditation space with kettle and beverages. I met people doing workshops on 'Fracking' and witnessed role plays on how to react non-violently to aggression from the police.

Banners were being prepared for the demonstration on the 30th and legal teams were devising strategies for resisting the evictions that were inevitable in the days/weeks ahead.

I popped into the three occupied sites, St Paul's, Finsbury Sq and the 'Bank of Ideas' every day, and was continually inspired and challenged. Each day, the Evening Standard (the free London paper) spouted lies about them to try and turn popular mood against them - 'drug use if rife', 'donated money is stolen', 'camp is full of excrement'.  each day, these courageous people dealt with all the difficulties of life under the spotlight, living in very harsh conditions.

When anyone complains about the protesters, I simply say 'What have you done to draw attention to the mess capitalism has made of the world, and what are you prepared to give up to build a better community?'

We will remember these people as heroes in the years to come. If in London, go and give them some support, and never accept that right wing free paper again unless you are desperate for some loo paper, it is all it's good for!

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