28 Oct 2011

Who are the protesters at St Paul’s and what do they want?

Channel 4 News talks to a surfer, a former diamond merchant, the hacker group Anonymous, and an actor about why they are protesting and what they hope to achieve.

The Occupy London Stock Exchange protest (OLSX), who have been encamped for over two weeks outside Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, admit they are a disparate group with different agendas.

But the group – who originally planned to protest outside the London Stock Exchange but were moved to St Paul’s by the police – maintains that the 200 people encamped there are all united in opposition to one thing: corporate greed.

Channel 4 News spent a day outside St Paul’s to meet some of them.

The activist

George Badar is an activist who decided that “after an over-privileged education in the upper echelons of society”, he wanted to “fight for a better alternative.”

“The fact that we are here in the City of London points to where the problem really lies – where our democracy has really gone.

“Our government, who are supposed to be providing vital services for the most vulnerable people in society, are now telling us that they can’t deliver those services because of the global financial crisis and the incredibly undemocratic and opaque influence of the City of London.”

Mr Badar puts down the inequality in the world to “a system of rules and regulations created by powerful economic interests to allow the rich to do what the hell they want.” But he believes it is a system that can be changed by protesting against it.

“It’s about a system that is sick. Not only the branches, but the very trunk and the roots of this system is sick. As Gandhi said, it is our moral duty to progress with civil action if we feel it is unjust,” Mr Badar said.

The surfer

Kim Heaton-Heather could be described as an ‘accidental activist’. The surfer from Cornwall was set for a camping trip until he was thwarted by the British weather, so he decided to set up outside St Paul’s instead.

“I had a rucksack full of tents and sleeping bags so I thought I might as well put the equipment to good use,” he said.

He said his priority was to be part of a national dialogue that would result in a fairer system.

“If I had one aim it is to express to the country that this democracy is broken in a very fundamental way. If we do nothing but to make people think and
start a dialogue, then we’ve achieved a massive thing,” Mr Heaton-Heather said.

But he denied that people’s differing views diluted the strength of the protest.

“It’s difficult that everybody has got different angles, but that’s an accurate representation of any collective of people.

“In life you have to find a way of dealing with everybody’s beliefs and you have to let each person be represented, and i think that’s the problem
today people don’t feel represented by the three political parties in this country, who all peddling basically the same merchandise, a knock off
version of democracy.”

The veteran

71-year-old George Weiss was a diamond merchant until a “mystical experience” in 1974 led to a life of activism and politics. He founded his own party in the 1980s, the Rainbow Alliance, and stood against Michael Portillo in the Enfield Southgate by-election in 1984.

Ever since he has been a popular, yet eccentric, presence on the UK’s political scene.

“I am leading an idealistically and mystically-directed movement, the Rainbow Alliance, which among other things wants to make politicans redundant.

“I have many aims but I’m here because I believe in a slogan from the Bible – you can’t save God and the Devil at the same time.

“I’m against corporate greed, and I’m establishing a new bank, the Bank of Boaz, which will only use electronic currency,” Mr Weiss said.

“I also want to make London a separate country in order to highlight the stupidity of nationalism,” he continued.

The family man

Actor Ruairy Conaghan was passing through the demonstration with his five-year-old son Sé, who was handing out chocolates to the more entrenched protestors.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing. I have a mortgage, a house, a job and I find it very hard, and almost impossible to do what they are doing, so it’s kind of in their hands, and I’m very grateful for them doing it for us.”

He believes that public opinion is firmly with the protestors.

“I’m gathering that people really support this action people are very discontented and angry. They didn’t have a way to vent it, and now they do, in a peaceful, proper and cool way.”

“I’m not a Christian, but people talk about would Jesus would have done, and i’m sure he’d be among those tents.”

The tax lawyer

Charles Lubar, an international tax lawyer based across the way from St Paul’s, was also passing through the camp and was not there to protest.

He said he understood the frustrations of the protestors but wondered if it would actually achieve anything.

“I think there’s a real theme here and there’s serious concern about the dilemma of the capitalist system and the inequality this entails, but unfortunately I can’t see any coherent solutions to address it,” he said.

“I am in favour of free speech but the question is whether this tent city inhibits this great cathedral,” he went on to say.

The ‘hacktivist’

The Anonymous group, who have been increasingly associated with ‘hacktivism’, said it was at the protest to support the “core values” of the protest, which it believed was firmly against “corrupt bankers.”

“We’re here to lend our support to operation OLSX. Our main aim is to get the information out about the corrupt systems we have in place, we’re calling for transparency in governments and in corporations, and we believe that fits firmly with OLSX’s agenda,” a representative said.

“I don’t have solutions, but i think the best way to solve our problems are by sitting down together and discussing the matters in a coherent way with officials who are elected by the people and not by corporations.”

He went on to say the group will be there “until we’re made to move on.”


, ,