System is 'unsustainable', says Occupy LSX
“This is what democracy looks like,” says the first statement agreed by the mass assembly of 500 held yesterday outside St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London.
Indeed, the camp in the heart of London’s financial district has become the site of a mass discussion about the way forward in the global struggle for democracy against corporate and financial power as well as the political system itself.
The London occupation began as one of thousands held around the world on October 15, including huge rallies and demonstrations in Madrid, Rome, across the United States, Israel and Palestine.
Inspired by the Wall Street occupation, a large green banner at St Paul’s pronounced “We are the 99%” and on Sunday a new banner appeared, saying “Capitalism is Crisis”. The tent village in front of the cathedral is now drawing into its third day, despite increasingly cold weather.
Young people from around Britain have joined with seasoned campaigners from across the world to go beyond one-off protests to assert an alternative to established political channels which they feel do not represent them. “They have cut off all our avenues for protest,” as one participant said.
The assembly on the cathedral steps collectively agreed on an initial nine point statement which emphasises the unsustainability of the current system and demands “structural change towards authentic global equality”.
A call for the setting up of People' Assemblies throughout the country, and directly for the aim of a new “constitutional settlement so that people were in control” put by democracy campaigner Mark Barrett was warmly received.
Saturday’s rally of around 2,500 was entirely peaceful as the occupiers tried to enter Paternoster Square where the stock exchange is located. Hundreds of police, including Forward Intelligence Teams and helicopters circling above, cordoned off access to the square.
In the event, the tree-shaded area in front of St Paul’s Cathedral has provided a dramatic and safe setting, thanks to the intervention of Canon Giles Fraser who appeared outside the church after a police cordon tried to force demonstrators away and told the police they were not needed.
The camp is now well-organised with neat streets of individual tents, many with handmade placards pinned on them. They are backed up by mobile toilets, a food station with piles of bananas, water bottles, donated tins, plus information, media, medical areas and even a “Starbooks” library tent.
Teams are responsible for cleanliness. The occupiers and passers are entertained by live music. Groups meet in circles to debate what the aims of the occupation are and how to achieve them.
Organisers include Facebook groups Occupy LSX, 15O Unite for Global Change, Occupy London Stock Exchange camp, Take the Square and it is supported by Spanish Real Democracy Now campaigners, People’s Assembly Network, UK Uncut, A World to Win, Right to Work campaign and People’s Assembly London.
A flyer issued by United for #global democracy demands “global governance by the people, for the people, inspired by our sisters and brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, New York, Palestine-Israel, Spain and Greece” and called for regime change.
The #OccupyLSX’s initial statement calls for support for the 30 November strike and student action on 9 November, but the trade unions, who are in the Coalition government’s firing line have been noticeable only by their total absence.
Going outside and beyond the existing political parties and trade unions to assert an independent democratic movement – and connecting it with the anti-dictatorship movements of the Arab Spring – is a huge step in the right direction.
Let the jaded cynics and dogmatists carp as they like. History is leaving them behind. As one demonstrator said: “We are going through a great awakening: everyone is waking up and discovering the true power of humanity. We don’t need to be treated like this any more – we are moving into a new age – and we want our futures back.”
How to achieve this aim is central to the event this Saturday, People’s Assemblies to People’s Power. Everyone is welcome to join in the dialogue at Passing Clouds Collective.
A World to Win secretary
17 October 2011