Occupy protesters to carry on camping
It was billed as pretty much “occupy everything” by the posters and press information floating around the tented camp outside the steps of St Paul’s in London.
However things did not get off to the best of starts. Instead of a meeting to plan direct action in the city, I found a crisis meeting called because of some kind of dark incident within the camps overnight.
Various allegations of drug abuse were being bandied around with vociferous calls to take the alleged offenders off to the nearest city police officer. All in all it rather put back to start-time for whatever was planned for the banks and bankers nearby.
In the end barely fifty or so protesters moved off from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral – vastly outnumbered by groups of tourists stopping to take pictures of them and the Cathedral, very much in that order. A pantomime horse was on hand too. So perhaps that ought to be fifty-two.
But they made a considerable noise, walking around a nearby Lloyd’s Bank office, bankers gawping from the windows in shirtsleeves in vague wonder at the cacophony going on below as pots were hit with drumsticks, a wheelbarrow pounded with wood, Gloria Gaynor belting out “I Will Occupy”, instead of survive, if I’m not much mistaken.
All of this, rather good-naturedly watch over by a handful of city police officers, no riot gear in sight, still less the pepper sprays and all the rest of it seen at occupy demos around the world.
All of a sudden it all went quiet and one protester read out a lecture from his laptop on the freezing morning sunshine. All listened attentively. It ended, up came the noise and everybody danced on to another venue – this time a high street Lloyd’s branch.
And here the only aggro of the day that I detected, from a City worker who shoved a cameraman out of his way, clearly un-amused at the whole spectre. Matters were summed up to us by Mark Weaver, a protester who has been at the St Paul’s camp since it began almost two months ago.
‘A simple issue’
He said: “The point of today is to show everyone in the UK that there is such a thing as peaceful protest, where they can make their voices heard, they can draw attention to issues that concern them, and this is a very simple issue actually.
“The issue is that private banks are funnelling money from the poorest people, from the mass of people, and are taking it for their own private profit, and to be honest, one of the main achievements of doing something like this is that people in there [pointing into the Lloyd’s office] can see that we’re not violent lunatics …that’s what democracy is all about.”
And given they had pretty much one media person in tow for every three protesters they had potentially got them selves a great deal of coverage. But that’s the point really, to show they are still here, to show the very real issues with the British banking system have far from gone away – as we saw in Europe in the past week or so – and we see on the streets of London today.
Others, like Nicholas Galbraith, are not living in the camp at all. Mr Galbraith said he owned his own company and was here to make the point that the banks are still not helping small businesses as they should, he said, in terms of lending to such enterprises. It is the cri de coeur you will hear from small business the length and breadth of the land.
So they are not going away from their tents – no matter how cold it might get. And this afternoon the Rev Jesse Jackson will be on hand to speak to the “Tented Ones”. They remain an amiable bunch on the whole and nothing if not media-friendly. Their guest this afternoon also knows a thing or two about using the media.
You can follow Alex Thomson on Twitter: @alextomo