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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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.
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