Over 2,000 people marched from Occupy London’s St Paul’s Cathedral camp to Parliament Square last Saturday. It was part of a day of action to spread the occupation’s message to the public. The City of London and the cathedral now say they will not move protesters until after Christmas.
The day started with a rally and discussion outside St Paul’s. Speakers included Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, Guardian journalist Seumas Milne, comedian Josie Long, Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism, and many of the occupiers themselves.
On the march protesters handed out leaflets explaining the camp’s principles. They chanted “We are the 99 percent. You are the 99 percent!”, urging people to get involved. It seemed to work.
“We’re with you guys!” shouted one restaurant worker. “I’m with them,” said a worker in a newsagent. “Everything’s being cut, everything’s too expensive.” A street cleaner held up a fist as the march passed by.
Steve Granville, a retired BT engineer and activist in the CWU union, came on the march with his union’s flag. “I’m here to show trade unionists’ and retired people’s support,” he said. “This movement has the potential to do a lot. We’ve all got to link up.”
As they approached their destination, marchers discovered that police had blocked off Whitehall.
A cat and mouse game ensued for several hours as they looked for an alternative route to parliament.
Police told marchers that it was illegal to march within a kilometre of parliament without authorisation. But one group got there at around 5pm, and a general assembly was held in Parliament Square.
“Welcome to the first general assembly outside parliament!” shouted the facilitator over the megaphone, to cheers. “This is what democracy looks like,” they chanted.
“This is real democracy,” Ahmad, a protester from Afghanistan, told Socialist Worker. “Those politicians just represent the super-rich. They’re totally alienated from the population. And coming from Afghanistan I know all about Western democracy.”
Jessica, a stagehand from Australia, was also there. She said, “The powers that be say we should define our vision. Well why don’t they define their own vision of the future?
“Ours isn’t utopian—it’s that we want peace, education, human rights and a roof over our head.”
Police first told protesters to leave, then kettled them for a short time. Eventually protesters were freed and made their way back to St Paul’s.
One shouted, to cheers, “Today we took parliament!”