A View From Occupy Democracy

News piece for the cats at SHA.DE – running an independently funded student paper, in the aftermath of The London Student’s closure. Support dat.



October 30, 2014

Take a visit to Parliament last week and you would have seen a small demonstration huddled in the corner of Parliament Square. This was Occupy Democracy – the latest incarnation of the original Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX) demonstration that took place in London in autumn 2011.

Back to mark the anniversary of that first occupation, Occupy Democracy is about advancing the lessons first learnt on the cold steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. And more importantly, it’s about re-organising a group of people to take action to bring about democratic justice.

“Occupy identifies the need for a democratic revolution”

On the face of it, Occupy Democracy is much smaller than previous campaigns.

The 2011 Police Reform and Social Responsibilities Act placed stringent restrictions on the right to protest near parliament. Thus protesters were prohibited from erecting tents or sleeping structures, and relied instead on sheets of blue tarpaulin and even pizza boxes as shields against the cold.

Nonetheless, Protesters spent nine days in occupation, under the constant glare of Metropolitan police officers.

Having spent three years away from the limelight, this new Occupy seemed even more organised.

Every day of the 9-day occupation offered up a different issue to be discussed, with public speakers debating the motion in the general assembly every evening. On the agenda was everything from money, tax and finance, to justice, equality and the media, each subject matched with its own array of speakers.

“This new Occupy seems like one with a new narrative – a movement with answers rather than just questions”

Over the space of only a week and a half, Occupy Democracy managed to attract the likes of Russell BrandKen Loach and Vivienne Westwood.

It also drew speakers from many supportive civil society groups including Friends of the EarthUK UncutWorld Development MovementWar on WantFuel Poverty ActionDisabled People Against CutsDefend the Right to ProtestStop the WarLeft UnityOurNHSStroud Against the CutsNew Economics FoundationRobin Hood Tax, New Green Deal Group, Save Lewisham Hospital and One Million Climate Jobs.

This new Occupy seems like one with a new narrative – a movement with answers rather than just questions. A recurring theme over the nine days was the need for more grass-roots community organising as a key to achieving change.

While Occupy could hardly be said to have strength in numbers, it has identified two great ways to create change. First, it provides a strong counter-narrative to the current representative-democratic approach that leaves citizens out of decision making. Second, the movement has a dedicated group willing to fight for it.

Over nine days, we heard many different points of view. There were those who think that the Scottish referendum was an insight into the possibility of a political vote with a monopoly on people. And there were those eagerly following the work of the Podemos party in Spain, a socially organised political party born out of the Indignados movement in 2011.

Occupy identifies the need for a democratic revolution. Moving into a teaching space, the next few weeks see the The New Putney Debates: offering open lectures for anyone to come in and learn, completely free of charge.

While it’s another small step, it’s a big leap for a movement that three years ago was struggling to understand its own reason for protesting.

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