I attended the initial demonstration on Saturday 15 October; I was struck by how impressive the turnout was. The mood was one of anger and frustration from people who’d simply had enough. The protesters were not violent or volatile in anyway but the frustrations they felt were raw. The occupation was inspired by the Wall Street protest in America; people felt a connection and wanted to demonstrate their solidarity. Although their aim was to occupy the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square, this was always going to prove difficult. The land itself is private property and an injunction was immediately taken out to prevent anyone passing into this area. The occupied land therefore became the area directly outside St. Paul's Cathedral.
My reaction to the camp was that of admiration. These people were making a stand against corporate greed and the continuous attacks on working-class people. I’ve regularly attended the camp throughout the day and most evenings. I enjoyed sitting down and chatting. I felt inspired being there. The more I attended, the more I wanted to go back. The first day at the camp, the protesters appeared disorganised but that soon changed. They had a kitchen area, a donation area, a first aid tent, and were even keeping on top of all the rubbish build up and recycling their papers and plastics. Throughout the day they invite speakers down, organise debates and discussions and even educational sessions. It was a fantastic atmosphere - everyone sharing, and helping each other. It truly lifted my spirits being there.
Since the occupation started I’ve seen mixed reactions from colleagues and the public in general. There’s been some apathy, and some believe that the protesters are just causing a nuisance and shouldn't even be there, that they are obstructing the cathedral. Many people I’ve spoken to say they find politics “boring”. I thought that once, but I’ve found that a subject that’s perceived as “boring” is often due to the fact that it’s not fully understood. When something doesn’t make sense people have the tendency to switch off. I genuinely believe that if that is the case, people should take the time to try and develop their knowledge further. Knowledge is, after all, the greatest weapon.
The demonstrators want people who are unaware of their cause to take the time to stop and talk. Ignorance is nothing to be proud of. Politics does matter and people should be open-minded about the world in which we live.
Among my colleagues and friends there were also many others like myself who were sympathetic to the cause, and who were more than happy to pop by after work donating food and blankets. The tourists visiting were also mesmerized by their presence and appeared to be more interested in the occupation than in the cathedral and many couldn't wait to capture the events on their cameras!
The presence of the occupations highlights the greed and corruption among the elite, and expose the fact that workers across the world are being exploited and are having to pay for the crisis with attacks taking place across the public and private sectors. Jobs, pensions, NHS cuts, education, pay freezes... the list goes on. This is what workers are fighting every single day. The occupation gives us an opportunity to explain to people that there is an alternative, and that the attacks we’re facing aren’t about “the deficit Labour left us”, but the Tory ideology of the Coalition government.
First and foremost I believe that there needs to be a bigger presence from trade unions. Some individual union members have attended off their own back, which is absolutely fantastic, but it needs more. The unions showed practical solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and that's exactly what I believe needs to happen here. Continued support is absolutely vital, and essential for building the occupation and spurring the protesters to keep fighting and standing strong.