A Future for the Occupy Movement? Occupy Our Homes in the US, And People Before Profit in South London

Today, the Occupy movement, which grew out of Occupy Wall Street last October, and swiftly established itself across the US and around the world, is holding May Day events, or joining existing worker-based events, in numerous countries.

As the movement signals its reappearance, many observers have been wondering where its focus will be. In fact, even before the coordinated wave of evictions of Occupy camps across the US last November, and the later eviction of Occupy London outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, questions had been raised about where the movement should direct its attentions next, and empty property had arisen as a regular focus.

In the US, activists began to examine the foreclosure crisis, and the disgraceful situation whereby a vast number of houses are empty because those living there and paying mortgages couldn’t keep up with their payments or were swindled by unscrupulous lenders, even though there are no buyers for most of these properties, and homelessness is reaching epidemic proportions. In December 2011, Amnesty International reported that “approximately 3.5 million people in the US are homeless, many of them veterans,” and, “at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Guantánamo Files: An Archive of Articles — Part Eleven, October to December 2011

The Guantanamo Files

Please support my work!

Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analyzed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.

As recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work nearly six years ago.

Throughout my work, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen.

This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »

A Call from Egypt for Solidarity and Support for the Unfinished Revolution

Since protestors in Egypt inspired the world back in January and February, risking their lives — and sometimes losing their lives — in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt to topple the hated Western-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak, and to demand fundamental political change, I have not devoted as much time as I would have liked to following up on the Egyptian story.

I reported with great pleasure the extraordinary invasion of State Security buildings in March, when torture cells and shredded documents were discovered, as Mubarak’s torturers fled, and in June and August I reported how former Guantánamo prisoner Adel al-Gazzar, who had returned to Egypt from his temporary home in Slovakia, was, sadly, imprisoned on his return. I also reported the first day of the trial of Hosni Mubarak, which enabled me, for the first time, to note how Egypt’s revolution had been hijacked by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Mubarak’s former allies, who took over when he was toppled, but who have proven unwilling to manage a swift transition to democracy, and, along the way, have held thousands of unjust and largely arbitrary military trials — more, ironically, than took place under Mubarak.

In picking up on this story that I have sadly neglected, I am delighted to cross-post a call for international support from activists in Egypt (published on the website, No Military Trials for Civilians), who, as the Guardian explained last week, have “called for an international day of action to defend their country’s revolution, as global opposition mounts towards the military junta.” In their statement, “appealing for solidarity” from the worldwide Occupy movement that has followed the example of the Egyptians and “taken control of public squares in London, New York and hundreds of other cities,”the Egyptian activists point out that “their revolution is ‘under attack’ from army generals,” and that they too are fighting a 1 percent elite “intent on stifling democracy and promoting social injustice.” Read the rest of this entry »

“The Banks Got Bailed Out, We Got Sold Out”: Students March in London

The slogan came from “Occupy Wall Street,” but it was a perfect fit for the thousands of student protestors marching today against the Tory-led government’s assault on students.

It was exactly a year since the first march against the government’s plans to cut funding to universities and to triple tuition fees, and, on that occasion, 50,000 people took to the streets, and the government was given its first notification that it might not be possible to force the people of Britain into submission without them putting up a fight.

That initial fight was lost, as Parliament approved the Tories’ bill in December last year. However, not content with endangering the future of university education and transferring the entire financial burden of arts, humanities and social sciences courses onto students, for nakedly ideological reasons, the government has now proposed further fundamental and damaging changes to the university sector in its white paper, which I discussed in an article last week, and which treats students purely as consumers, completely ignores the public value of higher education, and involves plans to introduce private providers into the university sector. Read the rest of this entry »

National Student-Led Demo Against University Fees, Austerity Cuts and the Planned Privatisation of Higher Education, November 9, 2011

It’s hard to believe that it’s just a year since 50,000 students, lecturers, university staff, schoolchildren and concerned citizens marched through central London to protest against the Tory-led coalition government’s plans to triple university tuition fees, to cut all funding to arts, humanities and the social sciences courses, and to cut the Education Maintenance Allowance, which supported schoolchildren on lower incomes, but now the time has come for concerned parties to take to the streets once more to show their opposition to the government’s white paper on higher education reform, which focuses on students as consumers, completely ignores the public value of higher education, and points to a privatised future of greater cost and greater inequality.

In September, nearly 400 academic campaigners, members of professional bodies, and concerned individuals published a hugely important response to the government’s plans, a document entitled, “In Defence of Public Higher Education,” in which they provided nine reasons for defending higher education as it currently stands, including a recognition that “higher education has public as well as private benefits and these public benefits require financial support,” a recognition that “public universities have a social mission and help to ameliorate social inequality,” that “public higher education is part of a generational contract in which an older generation invests in the wellbeing of future generations,” and that “education cannot be treated as a simple consumer good.”

They also concluded, appropriately, that the “commodification of higher education” is  “the secret heart of the white paper,” and that the government “seeks a differently funded sector, one which can provide new outlets for capital that struggles to find suitable opportunities for investment elsewhere” — a conclusion that applies equally to the government’s malignant plans to privatise the NHS. The authors also concluded that the government’s plans are “based on ideology rather than financial necessity, and will make no lasting savings.” Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London Protestors Seize Moral High Ground, As Church Declares An End to Hostilities

The events of the last few days — in and around St. Paul’s, where the Church of England and the Corporation of the City of London have been working out how to deal with the “Occupy London” campaigners in their midst — have been genuinely extraordinary. First, Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St. Paul’s, resigned, stating openly that he feared that violence would be used to evict the camp, which was something that he could not countenance, and then a chaplain, Fraser Dyer, also resigned.

The alarming presumption was that, obliged to choose between God and Mammon — or, more seriously, between the business of the City of London, and the demands of the protestors engaged in a novel form of political dissent and asking serious questions about whether the profiteering, tax evasion and unaccountability of banks and corporations is acceptable — St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the hierarchy of the Church of England, had chosen to endorse its establishment role. And this, of course, involved the Church ignoring its roots in the teaching of Christ, who spoke regularly about the poor, and also criticised those who conducted financial transactions in the house of God, as described in the Gospel of St. Matthew, where it is stated that Jesus “went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers.” Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As Possible Eviction Looms, the Canon and Chaplain of St. Paul’s Resign, and Protestors Challenge the City’s Unaccountability

Two weeks ago, the “Occupy London” protestors first set up camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, and it was apparent from the very beginning, as I noted the time, that the authorities were determined not to allow the movement to establish itself freely in the City of London.

First, Paternoster Square — the entry point to the London Stock Exchange, the original focus of the protestors’ indignation — was declared off-limits, and remains so to this day, as though it is some sort of forbidden territory in a war, and then the area around St. Paul’s, where hundreds of protestors gathered instead, was “contained” by the police — or, essentially, “kettled,” and the protestors bullied and physically intimidated — until Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, intervened, explaining, “People have a right to protest and I’m very happy that people have that right to protest. People have generally been respectful and I have asked the police to leave.”

With the support of Giles Fraser, the camp established itself, with a kitchen, information point, a media tent, a legal tent and a “tent university,” and with daily meetings to decide on the camp’s objectives, and sub-groups to discuss other issues in detail. I was busy during the week, but I went down last Sunday with my family, and was impressed at how it had developed into a base for an organised, but non-hierarchical response to the grave crisis we all face, as a result of 30 years of largely unregulated greed and opportunism by those involved in international finance. The “Occupy” protestors have confused those who are only able to comprehend a traditional party political model of organising dissent and challenges to the existing power structures (which also involve hierarchies and “charismatic” leaders), as they are primarily asking questions and seeking answers to them rather then being manifesto-driven, although a statement of intent was issued on October 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As the Canon of St. Paul’s Welcomes the Protestors, They Issue a Statement of Intent

On Saturday, as protestors in 951 cities in 82 countries took to the streets and public spaces to protest about the gross inequalities of modern life (with 1 percent of the population having a wildly disproportionate amount of money, power and influence), the thousands who gathered to “Occupy London,” hoping to establish a camp in Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, unfortunately found their day dominated by a heavy-handed police presence, as I reported in an article entitled, Occupy London: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

First of all, Paternoster Square was blocked, then the first few hundred protestors were “contained” in front of St. Paul’s, and then, as night fell, the police made a few violent efforts to clear the area, before giving up and allowing a limited overnight camp to proceed.

The end result was as the authorities hoped. An occupation that would have numbered in the thousands, and would then have attracted many, many more thousands of people, if it had been allowed to proceed unmolested, was indeed “contained,” with just 250 people camping the first night, and a clear message sent out to potential protestors, letting them know that the police don’t have any problems with violence if the “Occupy” movement shows any signs of becoming a significant irritant. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

October 15, as I discussed in an earlier article, was a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, which has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street.”

In London, the plan was to occupy Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the London Stock Exchange is situated, but from the moment I approached St. Paul’s yesterday afternoon (at about 2.30 pm, cycling from London Bridge), it was clear that a clampdown was in place — with police vans everywhere, and lines of police blocking all the entrances to Paternoster Square, where notices had been posted, stating, “Paternoster Square is private land. Any licence to the public to enter or cross this land is revoked forthwith. There is no implied or express permission to enter the premises or any part. Any such entry will constitute a trespass.”

When I finally found the crowd — in front of St. Paul’s and spilling onto Ludgate Hill — I was delighted to see that thousands of people had turned up, but bitterly disappointed that the police had sealed off those closest to St. Paul’s from everyone who arrived afterwards, and had shifted the focus of the event from the protestors to the police, and fears and doubts about what they would do. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London, Occupy the World: Get Out on the Streets Today, and Don’t Go Home

Today, October 15, is a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, according to 15october.net, where, under the heading, “united for #globalchange,” campaigners worldwide have been planning events over the last few months, with the intention of starting a global movement to change the world.

Inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, and the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, this movement has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street,” a manifestation of the movement in New York which, growing from a seed planted by Adbusters, began a month ago, was initially ignored by the mainstream media, but then became too big to ignore, spawning similar movements across the US (see the “Occupy Together” website), and both inspiring movements in other countries and tying in with already existing movements around the world, all of which have sprung up in the wake of the revolutionary movements in the Middle East.

While this global movement is confusing to the establishment because it lacks clearly defined leaders and manifestos written in stone, its aims are readily comprehensible, as is obvious from its statements. Those protesting recognize, as the British campaigning group UK Uncut states succinctly on its website, that banks, corporations and the super-rich are bleeding the rest of us dry, and that tax evasion and state subsidies to banks are equivalent to the cuts imposed on the rest of us in this new global age of cuts and austerity. Read the rest of this entry »

Back to home page

Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo