Occupy London

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Occupy London
Part of the Occupy movement
Occupy London Tent.jpg
Occupy London Tent
Date From 15 October 2011 - 14 June 2012[1]
(2 years, 310 days)
Location London, England, United Kingdom
Coordinates: 51°32′05″N 0°05′14″W / 51.534794°N 0.087354°W / 51.534794; -0.087354
Causes Economic inequality, corporate influence over government, inter alia.
Methods Demonstration, occupation, protest, street protesters
Status Ended
Number
Thousands (at peak in Oct & Nov 2011)[2][3]
Arrests and injuries
Injuries 0
Arrested 8[4]

Occupy London is an activist group, stemming from the non-violent protest[5] and demonstration against economic inequality that took place in London, United Kingdom, from 15 October 2011 till 14 June 2012. Its original remit was to unite workers and unemployed alike in order to bring to the fore, the lack of affordability of housing in the United Kingdom, social injustice, corporate greed and the influence of companies and lobbyists on government. Thwarted in their original aim to camp outside the London Stock Exchange, a camp was set up nearby next to St Paul's Cathedral. On 18 January 2012 Mr Justice Lindblom granted an injunction against continuation of the protest;[6] but the protesters remained in place pending an appeal.[7] The appeal was refused on 22 February,[8] and just past midnight on 28 February bailiffs supported by City of London police began to remove the tents.[9]

The protests began in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, United States, and with support from tax avoidance protest group UK Uncut and the London based contingent of the Spanish 15M movement.[2][10][11] In October protesters established two encampments in central London: one outside St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London and the other in Finsbury Square just to the north of the City.[2] In November a third major site was opened in a disused office complex owned by UBS. Named by protesters as the Bank of Ideas, the site was located in Hackney until occupiers were evicted in late January 2012.[12] A fourth site was established in late December, at the unused premises of Old Street Magistrates Court in east London. The site's owners objected to its long term use by Occupiers, and agreement was reached for the building to be vacated by the end of January 2012.[13][14]

In February 2012, occupiers were evicted from their main camp in St Paul's, and from the Bank of Ideas, leaving Finsbury Square as the last London site to remain occupied.[15] The Finsbury Square camp was itself cleared by authorities in June 2012; several of the occupiers went on to establish a new camp in Shoreditch Park,[16] but only remained there for a few days. While no longer maintaining a major physical occupation, the Occupy London group continue to organise meetings, events and actions.[17]

Chronology[edit]

2011 events[edit]

October[edit]

On 10 October 2011 a campaign was launched on Facebook for protests to take place at the London Stock Exchange on 15 October in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and with multiple other protests planned worldwide for that day.[18][19]

The London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square was the initial target for the protesters on 15 October. Attempts to occupy the square were thwarted by police.[5] Police sealed off the entrance to the square as it was private property, a High Court injunction had been granted against public access to the square.[20] 2,500-3,000 people gathered nearby outside St Paul's Cathedral, with around 250 camping overnight.[5] During the afternoon of 15 October Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, the subject of extradition proceedings by the prosecution authorities of Sweden, gave an impromptu speech to the protesters on the topic of anonymity after he was challenged by police for wearing a mask as he walked to the protest.[11][21] On the Sunday morning the canon of St. Paul's, Reverend Giles Fraser, asked the police to leave the cathedral steps,[22] saying he was happy for people to "exercise their right to protest peacefully" outside the cathedral.[5][23]

By 17 October an encampment of around 150 tents together with makeshift tarpaulin shelters was clustered around the west side of St Paul's Cathedral.[24][25][26] On the 17th the Occupy London protesters issued a nine-point 'Initial Statement' drafted by "an assembly of over 500 people on the steps of St Paul's [Cathedral]".[4] On 21 October, the Dean of St Paul's announced that the cathedral would be closing until further notice as a result of the Occupy London camp pitched outside, and asked the protesters to leave the vicinity of the building "so that the cathedral can reopen as soon as possible".[27][28][29] On the evening of the 21st it was reported that the protesters had decided that they would remain in their encampment outside the cathedral, and that they believed that they could not be lawfully removed from the site without a court order.[30]

A panorama of the protest outside St Paul's Cathedral
A panorama of the protest outside St Paul's Cathedral

On 22 October the protesters established a second camp in Finsbury Square, just north of the City of London in the London Borough of Islington.[31][32][33]

On 23 October rock band The Featherz performed a guerilla gig at the St Paul's Cathedral camp as their debut concert.[34]

Solidarity poster referencing the We are the 99% slogan.

On 26 October it was reported that the Dean of St Paul's had decided that the cathedral would reopen on 28 October, following the resolution of all health and safety concerns.[35][36] The move was described as an "embarrassing U-turn" by the British national newspaper The Daily Telegraph.[35]

On 27 October Dr Giles Fraser resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's over disagreements on the handling of the demonstrators, saying "I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church."[37][38]

On 28 October the movement's first set of demands, 'Democratise The City of London Corporation' was published as a first step in the challenging of unaccountable global power elites.[39] The 28th also saw the resignation of the part-time Chaplain of St Paul's Fraser Dyer.

November[edit]

On 1 November The Rt Revd Graeme Knowles the Dean of St Paul's resigned following the backlash against his Chapter's resolution to forcibly evict the Occupy London protesters from outside the cathedral.[40] The City of London Corporation proceeded to take legal action against the camp at St Pauls, without support from the Cathedral. Canary Wharf Group took legal action on the 3rd, against protesters attempting to Occupy Docklands.[41]

On 18 November, protesters took over a disused office complex owned by the bank UBS, located in the London borough of Hackney. The site was opened to the public the following day as the Bank of Ideas, and provides free services including a library, seminars and various discussion related events.[12][42] On 28 November protesters at the Hackney site said they would contest attempts by lawyers to have them evicted.[43]

During the 2011 UK public sector strikes on 30 November, strikers attempted to occupy Panton House in Central London but were challenged by police and subsequently kettled outside the building.[citation needed]

December[edit]

Caroline Lucas, at the time leader of the Green party, discussing green economics with occupiers at the Bank of Ideas on 6 December 2011.

In early December the Metropolitan Police added the occupiers to their list of terrorist suspects.[44] On 6 December, members of the bands Radiohead and Massive Attack performed for free at the Bank of Ideas, as part of a Christmas party for the London occupy movement.[45][46] On 7 December members of occupy met with Hector Sants, the CEO of the Financial Services Authority, to discuss banking reform. The London occupy movement have began to offer sightseeing tours of London to tourists and plan to host further musical events after the success of the gig involving RadioHead and Massive Attack.[47]

On 15 December, Jesse Jackson addressed the Occupy camp at St Pauls, saying that Jesus Christ, Gandhi and Martin Luther King were all occupiers, and that: "Occupy is a global spirit, which is now sweeping the nation and the world, fighting for justice for all of God's children". [48][49]

By late December consensus among occupiers at the main camp in St Pauls had seemed to coalesce round a view that is would be better to leave voluntarily as long as they can be allowed to keep a small presence, and negotiations were started to see if agreement could be reached with the Cathedral.[50] Also in late December a fourth site was established in East London at an unused court and police complex. Occupiers announced plans to use the new site to host a symbolic "trial of the 1%"[13]

Overnight occupancy[edit]

In the week beginning 24 October 2011 a number of British national newspapers[51] reported that footage from a thermal imaging camera shot by a police helicopter revealed that only around 10% of the tents at the Occupy London camp outside St Paul's were occupied all night.[52] The protesters disputed these claims[51][53][54][55] and the City of London Police later confirmed that neither the details of the thermal imaging cameras nor the occupancy estimates had come from them.[51] Two British national newspapers, the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, subsequently videoed the camp using thermal imaging equipment, which they claimed confirmed that only around 10% of the tents were occupied all night.[56][57]

The claims were disputed by the protesters and other journalists, who noted that most protesters did not go to sleep at the time of the day when the images were taken, and thermal imaging produces inaccurate results when used on insulative material like those of the tents.[58] The protesters recorded and published videos using the same thermal camera to demonstrate this,[59][60] and lodged a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission regarding the claims.[61] They also mentioned that many of them are 'ordinary people with jobs and families' and therefore cannot be present on site at all times.[62]

The techniques used by the newspapers were subsequently criticised as "rubbish science" by a military scientist, according to reports in The Guardian, although the source asked to remain anonymous.[63]

On 11 November police arrested 170 EDL members on Armistice Day when intelligence revealed EDL members planned to attack campers at St Paul's Cathedral.[64]

2011 statements[edit]

Initial statement[edit]

On 16 October, a gathering of over 500 Occupy London protesters collectively agreed upon and issued the following 'Initial Statement':

  1. The current system is unsustainable. It is undemocratic and unjust. We need alternatives; this is where we work towards them.
  2. We are of all ethnicities, backgrounds, genders, generations, sexualities dis/abilities and faiths. We stand together with occupations all over the world.
  3. We refuse to pay for the banks’ crisis.
  4. We do not accept the cuts as either necessary or inevitable. We demand an end to global tax injustice and our democracy representing corporations instead of the people.
  5. We want regulators to be genuinely independent of the industries they regulate.
  6. We support the strike on 30 November and the student action on 9 November, and actions to defend our health services, welfare, education and employment, and to stop wars and arms dealing.
  7. We want structural change towards authentic global equality. The world’s resources must go towards caring for people and the planet, not the military, corporate profits or the rich.
  8. The present economic system pollutes land, sea and air, is causing massive loss of natural species and environments, and is accelerating humanity towards irreversible climate change. We call for a positive, sustainable economic system that benefits present and future generations.
  9. We stand in solidarity with the global oppressed and we call for an end to the actions of our government and others in causing this oppression.
    —occupylsx (Occupy London), Statement issued from the assembly on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, reported in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph[4][65]

Statement on The City of London Corporation[edit]

On Monday 7 November the first set of demands to come out of Occupy London were ratified by the General Assembly at St Paul's Cathedral. Born out of an earlier statement which was praised in the media as an example of how the protestors were sharpening up their act,[66] they aimed to open the City of London Corporation - the local authority for the UK's financial centre - to deeper scrutiny. Those present said that 200 people voted for the document asking the corporation to open itself to freedom of information requests, publish its accounts retrospectively to 2008, and reveal its financial involvements. The statement from the demonstrators also requested the end of business and corporate votes in elections, the removal of "secrecy practices" and the transparent reform of City institutions[67] along with a commission to examine allegations of corruption.[68][69] Both statements were met with responses from thinkers such as George Monbiot,[70] Nicholas Shaxson[71] and Blue Labour thinker and peer Lord Glasman.[72]

First statement on corporations[edit]

On 29 November the Occupy London movement released first statement of demands on corporations, where they called for measures to end tax evasion by wealthy firms.[73]

2012 events[edit]

A view of the camp at Finsbury Square - by late February 2012 this was Occupy London's last remaining site, until it too was cleared in mid June.

In January 2012, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to tackle excessive executive pay and crony capitalism, which Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens suggested may be an indication that the PM has signed up to Occupy values.[74]

On 18 January, the High court ruled in favour of the City of London Corporation, giving them the power to order the forcible eviction of occupiers from the St Pauls Camp. A spokesperson for the City said they would not further pursue eviction until 20 January, to give occupiers a chance to appeal against the ruling. The appeal date was later set to 13 February 2012.[75][76] Comparing the St Pauls camp as it was in January 2012 with its first few weeks, journalists such as Sid Ryan, Brendan O'Neill and Laurie Penny noted a change of character, with energy being diverted from political activism into caring for homeless and mentally ill people attracted by the companionship and shelter. Ryan has argued that despite caring for the homeless being a worthwhile cause, it may help the movement achieve change in the wider world if the camp is evicted.[77][78][79]

On 30 January, occupiers were evicted from the site where they had set up their Bank of Ideas, by bailiffs acting on behalf of UBS, who own the premises.[80]

In mid February, Occupy London took over an abandoned school in Islington, which they called the School of Ideas. They were evicted two weeks later, with authorities arranging for the school to be bulldozed on 28 February.[9] Also on 28 February, occupiers and their tents were removed from the area surrounding St. Paul's Cathedral, by a team of bailiffs supported by riot police.[81] The St Pauls site had been the last surviving high profile camp of the worldwide Occupy movement.[15] At the time of its eviction it was also the largest one remaining.[82] According to the Financial Times, Occupy activists insisted that their campaigning would continue, with some displaying banners announcing that the protests so far were "just the beginning."[15][83] Comedian Mark Steel compared the efficiency of the police in the clearing of a few tents with their stumbling investigation of News International. "Last year, presumably , if they'd been asked to evict them, they'd have written a report saying: "We have left no stone unturned in pursuing the occupiers, but after driving round the cathedral hundreds of times we have no evidence of any tents anywhere, or indeed of any cathedral."

In April, Bloomberg reported that the St Paul's camp cost London authorities just over a million pounds in monitoring and legal fees, while the Finsbury Square camp had so far cost about £10,000.[84][85]

Islington Council won a court order to Finsbury Square on 1 June, giving them the authority to perform a forcible eviction. Occupiers tried to establish an alternative camp in Hampstead Heath, but were immediately moved on by the police. Meanwhile other smaller camps emerged in other parts of London, including Leyton Marshes, Wapping and Limehouse.[86] The Finsbury Square camp was evicted in the early hours of 14 June. Some of the occupiers migrated to nearby Shoreditch Park, where they set up their tents. Occupiers have reported mixed views as to whether the new camp was still a political protest. The Evening Standard was told the Shoreditch camp was a temporary base from which to regroup, and that future "high profile" occupations were planned.[87] However other Occupy London supporters suggested that the new camp was no longer a political protest; several of the evicted campers were homeless with nowhere else to go. One activist said it's uncertain whether there will be future physical occupations.[16][88][89][90] By 26 June the Shoreditch Park camp had gone - locals were unsure where to, or even if the campers had chosen to stay together or to disperse.

In October, as part of their celebrations to mark their one year anniversary, Occupy London released The Little book of Ideas, a free ebook which aims to explain financial concepts useful in understanding both the 2008 global crisis and ongoing economic inequality.[91][92] Another event to mark the anniversary involved protestors entering St Paul's Cathedral during a service, to chain themselves to the pulpit.[93] Also in October, they organised a conference at Friends House London, with special guests including Mick McAteer, TUC senior economist Duncan Weldon and Bank of England director Andy Haldane. Haldane told occupiers that they had been correct about inequality being a cause of the financial crisis. He went on to say that Occupy had helped win the debate concerning the need for reform of the financial sector; that they may play a key role in the ongoing reform process; and that: "policy makers, like me, will need your continuing support in delivering that radical change."[94][95] According to the Financial Times, this was the first time a senior Central Banker has asserted that Occupy was correct in their analysis of the crisis.[93][95]

Reaction[edit]

In early November 2011, Ed Miliband (the UK Leader of the Opposition) said that mainstream politicians should listen to the occupiers, though he also stated that protesters should not be allowed to control the discussion.[96] One worker in a banking software company, David Pinder, responded to the statement: "I think the message is a bit lost because there's no real solutions being offered. It is one thing to say the system doesn't work but I don't hear any alternatives being proposed."[25]

See also[edit]

Related portals:

References[edit]

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  91. ^ The Little book of Ideas
  92. ^ Lisa Pollack (2012-10-30). "Occupy is increasingly well-informed" ((registration required)). Financial Times. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  93. ^ a b James Kirkup (29 Oct 2012). "Occupy protesters were right, says Bank of England official". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 30 October 2012. 
  94. ^ "A leaf being turned" transcript of speech by Andrew Haldane: at Occupy's "Socially useful banking" conference at Friend’s House, Euston, London on 29 October 2012. Hosted on Bank of England web site.
  95. ^ a b Hannah Kuchler and Claire Jones (2012-10-30). "BoE’s Haldane says Occupy was right" ((registration required)). Financial Times. Retrieved 2012-10-30. 
  96. ^ Daniel Boffey and Mark Townsend (2011-11-05). "Ed Miliband: politicians must listen to the St Paul's Cathedral protesters". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2011-11-28. 

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