On Monday 23rd March, an occupy protest began in the shadow of the Shard building, outside Rupert Murdoch’s News International HQ in London Bridge Street.
The protest focuses on the power that Murdoch and four other right-wing extremist media billionaires have over public opinion in the run up to the May general election.
Each day of occupation concentrated on different themes, such as environment, democracy, poverty, health and NHS, and human rights.
Saturday promised a mock trial of Rupert Murdoch, and a larger rally leading to a non-violent direct action (NVDA).
Although the rain mostly held off, weather was characterised by howling winds, whipped up by the tall buildings. But the show went on.
The trial of Murdoch was of course part comedy, with a bumbling Boris included as a witness for the defence, along with a smarmy Cameron, but prosecution witnesses included a moving statement from an ex-Wapping print worker who described the heartless Union-bashing, police violence, and the effects on so many workers that led some to suicide at the behest of Murdoch.
Among other witnesses was a speaker from the Tax Justice Network, who pointed out the hypocrisy of Murdoch’s massive tax avoidance while his newspapers focus on tiny levels of benefit fraud.
The role of the Sun newspaper in promoting the lies that led to the Iraq war were also under scrutiny, showing that Murdoch was implicit in International War Crimes.
Found guilty on several charges, in the spirit of non-violence, reconciliation, love and respect that the Occupy movement prides itself on, his punishment was that he be exiled from the UK, stripped of his business empire, and forced to live as a lowly member of the 99%, but was also given rehabilitation with a heart and hugs.
A photo op was then set up to portray News International’s war crime involvement.
After the trial, celebrity economist Max Keiser did a short set, and handed out free money in the form of StartCoin cards, which he hopes people will use to invest in great crowd-fund projects on StartJoin, such as the Trews awnings springing up in London to replace newsagent Sun sponsorships.
An energetic and talented anarchist rock trio from Norfolk, ‘Shock Hazard’ then performed a few tunes to warm up the growing crowd.
As their loud amps ran out of battery juice, it was time for some Earth folk to lead a ‘Beating the Bounds’ ceremony round the building to the sound of drums and ancient horn.
All week, the protest has been under intense scrutiny from authorities. There was a continual array of private security guards, from the Shard, News International, London Bridge station and elsewhere. Intelligence-gathering Police Liaison Officers were always mingling with the crowd and trying to engage in conversation. There were red-coated Community Wardens, British Transport Police, and Met Police too.
A silver-windowed office over the road, which was an abandoned Ambulance Control Centre, was commandeered by police to provide a perfect viewing and meeting spot.
As the time for direct action approached, a police helicopter buzzed overhead, and a FIT team with police photographer and video operator turned up.
Before the moment of action, some very welcome sustenance, curry and fruit, was provided by the mobile Hare Krishna food cart.
Then, after a briefing to go through the ‘safe space’ policy, and to stress the non-violent nature of the exercise, a crowd (bolstered by activists who had attended the ‘This Changes Everything’ conference during the day) approached the main entrance of the News International building.
While a small number of ‘blac bloc’ activists scaled the wall and occupied the attention of the corporate security guards, others jumped over fences from behind, and made a run for the front doors. Organiser, Donnachadh McCarthy was briefly pinned against a wall behind the legs of a burly guard, but he slipped out and nearly made it to the revolving glass doors, while security guards tried to prevent others entering the area.
In the chaos, more people flooded the covered space in front of the doors, and security gave up holding that space and concentrated on stopping any entry to the building.
Then a dozen or so TSG officers pushed their way into the crowd and formed a further line in front of the entrance.
The brief excitement subsided. No-one, despite minor scuffles, had been hurt nor arrested, and an open mic session began with the megaphone, while protestors held the huge ‘occupy’ banner in front of police lines, and a variety of other banners and placards were displayed.
Later that night, many people drifted away, but a core group of a dozen or so continued the occupation, two tents sprang up, and police stepped down their presence so that the occupation settled in for a peaceful night, still buffered by strong wind, but sheltered from rain.
The occupation was of course symbolic, and didn’t actually shut down the news empire, as staff were seen scurrying in and out of a rear service door and through a fenced gate guarded by more security.
Certainly, the news-makers can not have been unaware of the protest, even though the papers were strangely muted about this news the next day.
Sunday was planned to be the final day of the week-long protest, on the theme of alternative media, with strong representation from the soon to be launched ‘Real Media’ platform.