Socialist Worker

London occupiers: ‘We’re here to stay’

Issue No. 2275

The Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral is digging in for the long haul.

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 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 against the protesters.

Closure

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. “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, an activist at the new camp, told Socialist Worker, “We want this movement to be able to last. Having this camp too means 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 box). 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.

Inspire

“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 a delegation of the electricians fighting pay cuts came to speak at the occupation on Wednesday (see page 15).

The occupiers joined forces with UK Uncut on Monday to march to the revenue and customs department in protest at corporate tax avoidance.

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.”


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 (see page 14).

There are also camps in Birmingham, Norwich and Edinburgh, with dozens more towns trying to start their own.


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