On a trip to London I stopped off at St Paul’s to take a look at Occupy London. The first thing that struck me was how well laid out the tents are, how clean the area is. The encampment is well away from the steps to St Paul’s itself and does not block the way for people who want to attend church services or walk between the tents and Paternoster Square itself (where the London Stock Exchange is based).
In the Information Tent I asked one of the protesters how it was going: “This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re here for the long haul.” There weren’t many protesters around and most of the tents were empty – many protesters join them in the evenings and at weekends.They were expecting the City to take the case to the High Court to have them evicted and a few days later this is exactly what happened.
Here are some shots I took of the protest camp:
The entrance to Paternoster Square (through the white arch in the picture above) is barricaded off so they can’t occupy the area in front of the Stock Exchange as it’s private land.
What is the point of the occupation and what good does it do?
The Occupy movement is a challenge and a reminder of what we have lost sight of in a society all but bankrupted by the actions of our banks. Our politics have failed us: reaction to the financial crisis has been limited to lots of hand-ringing and political rhetoric, but little action. We are angry and frustrated that we are in this financial situation, but feel powerless to do anything about it. Occupy has no solutions. It is posing questions: does it have to be this way? Is there a better way? How do we engage with each other to find alternative solutions? Occupy asks how we can create a fairer society with greater social justice. These may be idealistic questions but they make a lot more sense that the cynicism and short termism of most of our current politics.
As we made our way out of the encampment towards St Paul’s tube station, we were passed by a well dressed middle-aged couple, the man in City suit and the woman in a fur coat. “They need to grow up!”, she said, looking at the sea of tents. It seems to me that the process of engagement and dialogue is going to take a long time.