“We are the 99%”
“We sit in peace and we have strength in numbers”
Bankers got a bail-out, we got sold out”
“Neoliberalism sucks, lets try something else. Come on!”
These were some of the key messages that people brought with them today as they occupied St. Paul’s square. The Occupy the Londons Stock Exchange action is supported by UK Uncut, The London-based Assembly of the Spanish 15M movement, internet activist group Anonymous and other groups, using for co-ordination social media like twitter and facebook to spread out messages.
Between 3 000-5 000 people gathered around 12h on 15 October at the square in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. According to their press release the aim is to occupy the London Stock Exchange as part of a global movement for real democracy that aims to highlight the social and economic injustice in the UK and beyond.
An estimated total cost of the financial bail-out to 1.3 trillion GBP and planned public sector cuts of 83 billion GBP by 2014-2015 in effect has resulted in cutting the income of 99% of the people. At the same time the remaining 1% and corporations continue to reap profits and avoid taxes (UK Uncut estimate 95 billion GBP a year of tax dodging in the UK).
The occupation is a continuation of the student and anti-cuts protests that have been taking place across the UK in the last year and a half. It is also part the wider global movement of protests and occupations from across the United States, Madrid, Rome, Toronto, Sidney, Cape Town, Hong Kong, etc. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/16/occupy-protests-europe-london-assange).
Initially planning to occupy the Paternoster Square, demonstrators were met by signs pronouncing the square private property and denying access to it, this was reinforced by police blocking all entries to the square.
As everyone gathered back in front of St. Paul’s it became clear that this is where the occupation will happen. The General Assembly is comprised of everyone who is at the square, people wave their hands if they agree with the speaker or a proposal and cross their hands above their heads if they do not. The aim is to let everyone who wants to speak, have the word and to take all decisions by consensus. It is going to be a long- long process but this is what popular democracy looks like.
They assembled into small groups to discuss the main issues that have to be addressed and how to proceed. Then each group sent a rapporteur who spoke in front of the GA about the main points they agreed on.
12 Working Groups were established, dealing with food, water, sanitation, shelter, as well as internal and external communication, legal and medical support, defence, media, bringing more people in and entertainment. The external communications group was to formulate the message that the assembly wanted to send out to the rest of the world. They came back to the GA with the following statement:
“The current system is broken, undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives and this is where we start working towards them. We will work on them throughout the occupation.
We are of all ethnicities, ages, gender, class. We stand together with occupations going on across the world and we refuse to pay for the bankers’ crisis.
We support the general strike called for the 30th November and the student protests on 9th November and all other actions to defend the health service, protect welfare, create employment, stop the wars.
We want structural changes, so that the world’s resources are used for the benefit of people and the environment and not the military, corporate profits and the rich.”
In the following days and weeks they will work together towards making these demands more concrete and coherent and articulating detailed and adequate proposals on how to address and re-dress the ongoing systemic crisis.
The next GA is called for noon on 16 October. As night falls it remains to be seen whether police will use excessive force to clear the square of peaceful demonstrators.