The Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral is digging in for the long haul. It has now been there for over a week.
It is so packed with tents and supporters that the occupiers have expanded into a second site in Finsbury Square.
Media worker Nathan Thomas was at the camp for the first time. “It’s about time people stood up to the institutions that favour the 1 percent,” he told Socialist Worker.
“I’m really impressed to be honest. In the past I’ve been a bit of a cynic, but just look at all the people here.”
The media has focused on the row between the cathedral and the camp. The church has closed and the authorities have threatened to get a legal injunction.
The temporary closure of St Paul’s has been treated as a life-or-death issue—unlike the permanent closure of libraries and hospitals.
“Our protest is not a threat to health and safety,” said one speaker at an emergency general assembly called over the cathedral’s stance.
“The cuts to the NHS are a threat to health. The deregulation of workplaces is a threat to safety.”
As the stand-off continues, there are still plenty of tents in Finsbury Square for new arrivals.
Jake, one of the activists at the new camp, told Socialist Worker, “We want this movement to be able to last. Having this camp too means that there is space for more people to get involved.”
The camps organise through working groups that handle different areas like food, media, outreach and the Tent City University (see below). Then everyone comes together twice a day for the general assemblies.
They are still pulling in new people all the time. “I’m here for the first time this evening, and I think I’ll come back,” said Migle, a student at the University of West London.
“I’ve always been supportive of this, and now it’s gone global it’s necessary to be part of it.”
Sylvia, who works in central London as an accounting clerk, said she was a “non-resident protester”. “I don’t stay over but I try to come and take part every evening,” she said.
“We live in an unsustainable system—infinite consumption with finite resources. Our movement is growing and raising awareness.”
Naveed Somani’s parents worked at the Rover plant in Longbridge. “When I was younger I felt more passionate about these things,” he said. “Then you start to get stuck into paying rent and bills and so on.
“I came here cynical. I wanted to inspire myself—and it worked! Now I have to get back on board a trade union.”
The unions have supported the camp. The Unite union has donated blankets and bedding, and Len McCluskey, its general secretary, visited last week.
And on Wednesday a delegation of the electricians fighting pay cuts came to speak.
Suzie works for Newham council. “The government wants us to have our backs against the wall, but these protests help to give working people confidence,” she said.
“Lots of people here have told me they’re supporting the public sector strikes in November—it’s been a real boost.”
Tent City University
“There’s a new university in London—and it’s free,” says Kitty, a postgraduate student at LSE and part of the camp’s Tent City University working group.
The Tent City University is the part of Occupy London dedicated to organising teach-ins, “teach-outs” and educational events.
The university puts on various workshops during the day, and at 6pm every day it organises a large lecture.
Speakers so far have spanned from Polly Toynbee on inequality to Phil Marfleet on the Egyptian revolution.
“You can really feel the buzz when the discussion gets going,” says Kitty. “It draws people in as they pass, which is what we were aiming for.”
To submit ideas for future sessions, email email@example.com
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, occupiers continue to camp in George Square. Last Saturday hundreds gathered for a support rally.
In Bristol the occupiers have taken College Green. They are making links with local union reps and the Bristol and District Anti-Cuts Alliance.
And in Nottingham the occupation of Market Square is becoming an organising focus for other events, such as the Hardest Hit protest last Saturday.
There are also camps in Birmingham, Norwich and Edinburgh, with dozens more towns trying to start one of their own.