Activists at Occupy London outside St Paul’s Cathedral gathered to discuss their response to the latest talks with the City of London last night, Wednesday.
Almost three weeks into the occupation, the City’s Corporation, its equivalent of the local council, has been forced to beat a retreat over its legal action.
After a spate of resignations from the cathedral, the Corporation says it has “paused” its eviction plan.
The occupation’s general assembly was told that the City is now saying it will let the camp stay, but only until the New Year. In return, the City has demanded a “scaling back” of the number of tents.
“They’re saying we have permanent erected structures, which is illegal on a public highway,” one of the occupiers who met City representatives told the assembly. They held up a large map of the “highway” to illustrate this.
He added that the camp’s lawyer thought agreeing to a two month deadline for leaving would be “a victory”, as it is better than could be won in a court case.
The 300-strong assembly split up into groups of ten to discuss how to respond. It then heard a series of report-backs, with suggestions ranging from legal tricks to angry calls for defiance.
“Moving the tents around a bit now and then means they’re not permanent structures,” said one occupier. Another suggested “we all move out on 31 December, then a new group of occupiers move in on 1 January”.
Some thought it best to “ridicule” the City’s case. “A £9.99 Argos tent is not a permanent structure,” said one speaker, to laughs.
Others wanted to issue demands in return. One woman got a big round of applause when she said a demand could be, “If you democratise the City of London by 2012, we’ll be out of here.”
Some were concerned that the camp was spending too much time on dealing with St Paul’s and the City. “Don’t lose the political points and get drawn into the legalistic detail,” said one.
“There should be no scaling down,” added another. “That’s not an option.”
And calls for a demonstration on any eviction day got wide support. There were a lot of “agree” hand waves for the speaker who said, “We can get massive public support. It will be a very messy eviction and a PR disaster for the City of London.”
The best response went to one of the occupiers who called for the camp to stay, come what may. “Every occupation movement which has faced violence, like Oakland, like Zuccotti Park [Occupy Wall Street], everybody has refused to move,” she said.
“Whatever happens,” she finished to cheers, “we should not move.”
Occupy London activists and supporters plan to march on parliament this Saturday. The demonstration will start at the St Paul’s camp at 2pm, and march to parliament before returning to the occupation for speeches and discussions. See www.occupylsx.org for further details.