Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The *Very Unofficial* 11-Point Guide To #OccupyLondon / #OccupyLSX ...

In the last few days I've been involved in so many tweet-battles over my support of @OccupyLondon, in reply to some of the trolls and critics, often answering the same question, repeating the same facts, challenging the same untruths.

So you know who you're trolling
These trolls are very varied - both intelligent and ignorant, both polite and downright aggressive, even threatening.. Like @OccupyLondon, they come in all forms.

So it seemed to me that a 'summary' of the issues over the last few days was in order - from my viewpoint.

I would stress at this point that I hold no official position within @OccupyLondon - these views are mine only, and will be at variance with some (perhaps many) of the rest of @OccupyLondon.

I choose to reply to trolls and critics because I hate to see their tweets unanswered. There's nothing better than to see an ill-judged untruth blown to dust by a solid argument, succinctly put.

A Quick Note First ...

Who am I? See above. I work. I volunteer with a few charities. Sometimes I'm at St Pauls, sometimes Finsbury Square, sometimes I'm in Cafe Nero (not, never St*rb*cks) sometimes I'm at home (I can't be in London 24/7 - so shoot me) ; sometimes I wear a mask, sometimes not. You may never see me.

By the way, when I use the pronoun 'we' or 'us' I'm talking about my understanding of @OccupyLondon. When I use 'I' or 'me' it's my own view.

And if you get into a twit-bitch with me, I'll discuss the issues. Just be polite, non-judgmental, and give me a minute or two between tweets to reply - I'm probably holding many simutaneous conversations, okay? 'Kay.

Ok, here we go ... 

1. So Just Who Are @OccupyLondon ?

@OccupyLondon are a loose alliance of multi-issue groups, with varied agendas, protesting peacefully and legally at two venues, holding assemblies and discussions to try to find solutions to the many problems our country faces.

You can follow them on the Twitter link @OccupyLondon. You can read the statements and various documents at www.occupylsx.org, and I would encourage you to do so - I just *love* arguing with well-informed critics.

2. But Aren't You All Just Unemployed Unwashed Marxist Tree-Hugging Anarchists ?

We are a surprising mix of people, actually. Yes, working class and middle-class (more on that later). We are all ages and cultures. A surprising proportion of us work and pay tax. We have a variety of political aims. Come down and see us if you want visual confirmation.

Just please don't trust the media, or individuals, who have never seen us in the (well-showered) flesh when they call us ALL hippies, benefit claimants, lefties or trouble-makers. Some of us are. Most of us are not. Come see for yourself.

3. But I Hear Only 20% of Your Tents Are Occupied At Night ?

Well, first they said we were all unemployed benefit claimants, then they complain when some of us have jobs to go to, and sleep to catch up on. The percentage of tents unoccupied at night is uncertain as the police have not actually issued the IR images - but certainly, some are vacant.

Some have been left by well-wishing protesters who need to go home.

Others are empty when their occupants are volunteering, discussing, or in other tents. I don't know what time the police flew over the encampments (nobody does - they won't say) but we're nattering late into the small hours, here.

During the day, with so many activities, few of the tents are actually occupied. but there are quite a few day-trippers among our supporters. They have jobs, children, even cats. You wouldn't see a kitten unfed, would you?

It's not as if we demand everyone stay 24 hours for the duration. Just being here one day, and getting involved, is more of an effort than that made by those sitting at home.

Updated 27/10/11

And more recently, this 'empty tents' myth has been debunked by 'Paul Newman' here.

Updated 28/10/11

... and a video released today using the same camera from the same supplier totally destroys the myth of 'empty tents. The suggestion, then is that the 'meejah', well, made up the story. Who'd have thought it, eh? Perhaps the 'meejah' owe #OccupyLondon an apology for their fabrication. But we won't hold our breath.

FURTHER NEWS: #OccupyLondon's lawyers (working pro-bono) have confirmed that they have issued a complaint against the Daily Telegraph (the originator of the story) via the PCC.

4. But Aren't You All Middle-Class Rich Kids With iPods and Lattes ?

Well, I'm not. Actually that's not true.

I do have a smart-phone, and I do enjoy lattes, but I'm a 'Cafe Nero' man rather than St*rb*cks. The Tory 'MP' Louise Mensch (Corby) suggested on 'Have I Got News For You' that any protester with a latte in their cold hands was purchasing a Capitalist product and therefore were being hypocritical. I disagree. We still have a voice even if we have a spare £3 for a latte. We are all types.

That 'obvious reason'
Similarly, why the problem with our smartphones? We have all types here, even a well-set-up Tech Tent. These are the tools of communication in our world. (We're not on Vodafone for obvious reasons, naturally) And my smartphone is neither Apple nor Blackberry, it's an Android, but then I'm a bit geeky.

Are we to have no phones, now? Would you have us naked because clothes are manufactured by corporations? Trust me, you wouldn't want to see that.

Bear in mind that the Anti-Capitalist label plastered all over the media is wrong. I'm happy on occasion to consume the products of our society. I just want to make that society better.

5. So Why Did You Close St Paul's Cathedral ?

We didn't. They chose to close. As to why - that's a good question. I can tell you that there are absolutely NO Health & Safety or Fire Issues.

@OccupyLondon are NOT blocking the entrances, and we have co-operated with our gracious hosts at all times regarding arrangements around the camp. We were dicussing with St. Paul's on various issues - and then they just broke off the dialog without explanation. We suspect that perhaps pressure has come on St Pauls from outside forces but we have no proof of this.

We sincerely hope that St Paul's will reopen very soon. Sadly we feel that they have dug a hole for themselves with their misleading comments about Health & Safety and now have no way out except a rather embarrassing climb-down.

Updated 26/10/11 

Legal expert David Alan Green at the New Statesman wrote an excellent piece  on the whole issue.

Updated 27/10/11 

And on Wednesday, St. Pauls finally announced that they would be re-opening the Cathedral (for your £14.50 entrance fee, of course) on Friday this week, although legal action to forcibly remove #OccupyLondon from the site is being considered. In response to this, the Chancellor of St. Pauls, Cannon Dr Giles Fraser, who has been quite sympathetic to the protest, and who said he'd resign if legal action were considered, is expected to resign.

Updated 27/10/11 

And Cannon Dr Giles Fraser has in fact announced his resignation at 9.00 today (27/10).

Updated 28/10/11 

... followed by a resignation for very similiar reasons by Fraser Dyer, chaplain at St Paul's Cathedral.

Also, of course, I'm please to note that common sense has prevailed and St Pauls re-opened today, further reinforcing the view that it never needed to close in the first place.

Updated 31/10/11

And today, Monday, the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral announced his intention to resign. Rather sad, really. Our battle was never with St Pauls, but their repeated 'own goals' have been a PR disaster from the start.

Both St Paul's and The Corporation of The City of London have been actively progressing their legal action against the Occupation however ...

Updated 1/11/11

Today, St Pauls confirmed they would 'take no part' in the action, and the Corporation of The City of London stated that their action was 'paused for reflection'. In many ways, both organisations have seen that legal action, potentially leading to violence, could easily have been an even major PR own-goal than actually leaving the protests as they are.

6. But Why Are You At St Paul's At All ?

The original intention was to Occupy the Stock Exchange. A swift injuction ensured that we were unable to reach our goal. These things happen, and St Pauls was just around about 100 feet away, in the heart of the Square Mile, surrounded (and sponsored and trustee'd) by financial institutions. We'd rather be in Paternoster Square, but it was not to be. But bearing in mind 'St Pauls Letters' in the New Testament, it seemed a very suitable place indeed.

The second encampment at Finsbury Square is also surrounded by financial institutions. It's a very suitable place to protest, although technically it is also owned by the Church of England.

7. The Media Seem To Be Bashing You Pretty Strongly, Why Should I Support You ?

Yes, well, that's the media for you.

Actually, a surprising number of articles have been written perhaps not in support of our strategies, but certainly in support of our aims - even newspapers on both sides of the political spectrum. The broadcast media don't seem to be very sympathetic, but many of us lost faith in certain aspects of the media long ago.

You have to ask yourself how much of what you read, see or hear is actually true - and of what is true, how it is expressed and what is not shown.

Updated 27/10/11 

The Guardian seem to be quite neutral, even sometimes the Telegraph. The Daily Fail and Express have referred to the protesters using various rather nasty epithets, and Sky News' Adam Boulting referred to the protesters as being as 'bad as Nazis'. Harsh, we thought.

Updated 29/10/11 

Also bear in mind that one of OccupyLondon's main agenda points is Tax Avoidance ; and seeing as though The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Express are all owned by tax-dodging non-domiciles, are you surprised at all that they are not supportive.

As for The Sun and The Times, well. Murdock. (Need I say more?)

8. But You Have So Many Voices - What Do You Stand For ?

We are a mixed-issue loose alliance. There are many sub-groups with their own agendas, but we are co-operating and co-ordinating very nicely with each other, thanks for asking. If you want a quick primer on the main issues we are fighting, read this initial statement then follow @OccupyLondon on Twitter for updates.

You'll soon get the idea.

One important fact - we have been labelled Anti-Capitalist. All of us. We are not. Very few of us want to 'eat the rich', 'bring the system down' or 'hang the bankers' - we just want the current system to work better for all of us. We're not scary at all.

Updated 28/10/11

And if you want an example issue, you'll notice from the papers today that while workers are fighting for a measly 2% pay rise, the bosses seem to be doing better - awarding themselves a 49% average pay rise. "We're all in this together" ? I hardly think so.

Updated 31/10/11 

And if you're confused about the *methods* used by the Occupy Movement - remember - it's not your usual protest - see the Guardian article here for an explanation of why we're not who you think we are. People ask 'what's our objective' ? - *I* think it's to provoke knowledge and discussion of the issues. In that, we're already successful.

9. But Isn't This All Rather Pointless ?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Big changes can start with small groups. Perhaps these are not the right tactics, perhaps they are, but either way, it's a darn sight better than sitting at home grumbling.

Many of us are so ANGRY with the current broken society that we feel we have to do SOMETHING. This is our 'something'. If you have constructive suggestions (not just 'get a job') - we welcome them. Talk to us. We don't bite. Not even if you're rich.

10. What's This 99% Rubbish ? How Can You Claim You Represent 99% ?

Personally, I'm not convinced we do. 99% is a logo (or slogan) we inherited from our American cousins. Think of it like the '57' of Heinz Soups. How many we represent, we don't know, but the only poll available (in the Guardian) stated we had 89% Public Support. If you have any other polls, I'd be glad to see them.

Don't think 99% - think of it as the 'Many Against The Few'. The precise numbers don't really matter. We are legion.

And look at all the cities (1,039) and countries (83) around the world where these occupations are happening. Support world-wide is surprisingly high. Even we're surprised at times.

11. But Aren't You Just Breaking The Law ?

This is a tough one.

We have enshrined in this country a legal right to non-violent protest, although those rights are being eroded constantly. It is one of the many things that we are proud of in this country.

If (and it's a BIG 'if') we are breaking the 'civil law' of trespass (and frankly, even that's debatable) then so be it. It is miniscule when compared to the corruption and law-breaking we constantly see at the heart of Government and Business.

We are non-violent, clean and tidy, and mostly very polite. We have a good relationship right now with the Police and we hope that continues as long as we are here.

We choose to exercise that legal right to protest in our fashion.


Okay, that's the main issues for now. Any tweet-battles I get involved in might result in one or two additions here, but I'll tweet an update as and when.

We are trying to build a better society. We are starting small, but we will grow. Because we dream, sometimes. You should try it.

Finally, my sincere thanks for reading to this point. I hope you have been enlightened.