Tag Archives: OccupyLondon

No austerity at Parliament Square

Earlier this evening, up to a hundred people gathered at Parliament Square for the start of a weekend of workshops, conversations, talks, music, entertainment and planning. The ‘occupy’ movement found that Boris’s GLA fences have been extended even further, so the whole square is now out of bounds to the public.

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Despite the announcement that 12% of police jobs are under threat due to austerity cuts, it seemed no expense was spared to protect the grass from spontaneous democracy tonight, with around 60 police spread out a few feet apart entirely encircling the perimeter fences, as well as the “heritage wardens” keeping guard inside, and police photographers and their intelligent-gathering ‘police liaison officers’ mingling with the crowd and journalists on the thin strip of pavement at the front.

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Despite threats of arrest, there is still no law against gathering or even protesting, only a set of restrictions that make it very difficult, so the occupation goes on, and after some marching , the group later found a safer space with more room behind the square in front of the Supreme Court.

One person was arrested near the Nelson Mandela statue after a good-natured attempt to break through one of the fences.

There’s some great coverage with live video feeds, but check out the programme of events and join in if you can.  occupydemocracy.org.uk

Then and now – Parliament Square, democracy and repression.

Back in 2007, Brian Haw battled against a government desperate to close his, by then, 6 year long vigil. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While his own small encampment held ground, he was gradually joined by others, a few legitimate supporters, but several homeless people and other campers, who set up around the square nearby. The GLA put up fences, attached signs warning of “no unauthorised access”, and gave out copies of a nice letter from the GLA’s PR man, Benjamin McKnight, stating that the Mayor of London (then Ken Livingstone) respected peaceful protest, but that the other camping was an eyesore and a health hazard. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  

At the time, we all thought things had got pretty bad, but seven years on, things have changed for the worse. SOCPA was replaced with PRASRA, and the power of seizure was introduced, covering any equipment that might facilitate an overnight stay, any placards or written material, any musical instruments, any structures, and any amplification.

The Mayor (now Boris Johnson) clearly no longer respects peaceful protest, as every item associated with normal protest activity is now proscribed. The PRASRA law, on which the 2012 Parks bye-laws are based, is a very nasty, unjust, undemocratic, and draconian piece of legislation, as it confers powers on warranted “Heritage Wardens”, who with the help of the police, can use force to seize items they consider fall under the wide definitions, can ban people who don’t follow their “reasonable direction”, and can mostly get away with doing this without the hindrance of any judicial framework where they can be challenged.

Now too, “no unauthorised access” has been replaced with a lie. The 2014 signs say the area is “closed for repair”. 01 occupy21

The only repairs required are the result of the jackboots of, not 78 this time, but several hundred police, who have used the PRASRA legislation to intimidate, abuse, and harass a group of people who have publicly announced a nine-day series of workshops, discussions, and other peaceful events around the subject of democracy. 02 occupy21

The lie is further unravelled by the sight of dogs deployed to frighten off any possible incursions, while it’s wardens and police who patrol the grass behind high fences, rather than gardeners.

This morning, around 30 people were arrested, dragged away one by one by dozens of police, surveilled by a hovering helicopter in an austerity-busting costly operation to retrieve a measly £5 tarpaulin, used to keep bottoms dry on the wet soil. And even after they had seized their pathetic booty, police weren’t content. As if like rabid dogs, once they’d tasted some tarpaulin, they needed more. They attacked an elderly man on the pavement, who was carrying a folded up tarpaulin, arresting him as he tried to keep hold of it, and ignoring his cries that he had fought in World War II to stop fascism. One notable arrest, who was promptly de-arrested once police realised who she was, was Green GLA member, Jenny Jones.

After all this evil, I didn’t know what to expect when I visited the Square early this evening, but what I saw left my heart singing.

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‘Occupy democracy’ continues despite the police, the petty wardens, the fences, the dogs, the lies, and even a hurricane. 

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One man sat at the foot of Churchill’s statue, wearing a policeman’s hat, borrowed to keep the rain off, and guarding a big yellow sign that declared “The revolution will not be confiscated”. And behind him, a crowd of around a hundred people listened intently to speakers, and took turns sharing ideas, as part of the continuing programme of events, delayed by interruptions, but not abandoned. 05 occupy21 For updates and inspiration, see occupydemocracy.org.uk or follow @occupydemocracy #occupydemocracy

29th June 2014 DPAC occupation at Westminster Abbey

Please note: This event was Saturday 28th June, not 29th. I won’t correct the title because there are now a load of links to it.

DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) staged a dramatic protest on Saturday at Westminster Abbey. They were highlighting the planned abolition of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) and the terrible consequences such cuts would have on the lives of disabled people who gain some little freedom from being able to afford personal carers and who would otherwise end up in institutions.

The occupation was aided by UK Uncut and the Occupy movement, and was very nearly successful in its aim to establish a camp.

However, despite pleas from the protesters, the Dean of Westminster instructed police to confiscate tents and other equipment vital to the safety and well-being of the disabled activists, and he refused to communicate or negotiate directly with any organisers.

After a few hours, a meeting was held on site and a consensus reached, that although many of the supporters were ready to continue the occupation, the safety and comfort of more vulnerable colleagues was not guaranteed without the planned shelter, cooking, and toilet facilities, and so everyone agreed to leave together in solidarity.

The protest was attended by almost 200 police, who outnumbered the activists by at least 3 to 1. Given that the protest was completely peaceful other than two minor scuffles when police used force to prevent additional supporters from coming into the area, this certainly seemed to be more a political show of force than any proportionate response.

When the police threatened people with arrest for ‘criminal trespass’ they said the protesters were stopping the Abbey from going about its ‘normal business’. I received a tweet from @lightacandleOTM that summed it up perfectly – isn’t the normal business of the church to stand up for the persecuted?