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Occupy Protests – The Clampdown Begins

November 17, 2011

It was only a matter of time.

After nearly two months of occupation by the people of New York as a protest to economic inequality, where the über rich are doing very well and the rest of us are paying for it, the NYPD, at the behest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, made a surprise sweep of Zuccotti Park in the dead of night. Wearing riot gear, they removed the protesters and dismantled their tents. There were reports of pepper spray being used and a media blackout, as journalists tried to get into the area but were denied access. Police also cleared camps in Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon. It looks like Blighty will follow suit, as legal action, initially taken by The City of London Corporation against the ‘tent city’ at St. Paul’s Cathedral, has been resumed after talks had broken down regarding the length of time the protesters could stay. Things could soon get very tasty.

Occupy Wall Street raid

I first went to the site of the London protest on Sunday 16th October, the day after their unsuccessful attempt to occupy The London Stock Exchange, resulting in their move to nearby St. Paul’s Cathedral. A radio presenter made a snide comment about how these people protesting about the rich and capitalism are doing it outside a church. How strange, he said.

Not at all.

A church is a place of sanctuary, is it not? The canon chancellor Giles Fraser, who, unlike that muppet, knew exactly what a church represented, allowed them to stay as long as they didn’t interfere with the daily business of the cathedral.

Anonymous protesters at St. Paul's

statue with a coma sign hanging around its neck at St. Paul's Cathedral

This woman featured on the font page of the Evening Standard the day after I took this pic. Well, they have to sell papers, so they weren’t going to put up a munter as a front-page splash, were they?

protesters at St. Paul's Cathedral

All was well until Friday, when St. Paul’s suddenly closed their doors citing ‘health and safety issues’ which were never made clear. I went the following week to see how the protesters had become such a health hazard. The steps were clear, so they weren’t in the way. They remained at the side of the cathedral and they continued to be peaceful. I was confused. Meanwhile, The City of London Corporation and St. Paul’s were looking into the possibility of legal action to evict the protesters. The canon, unhappy that violence could be the result of this action in the name of the church, resigned. And our esteemed Mayor Boris Johnson, without a shred of irony, said: “In the name of God and Mammon, go!” Quite.

St. Paul's crowd and the tents

Quakers protesting on the steps of St. Paul's Cathedral

A carpet on the ground with the words 'Greed. You can bank on it' written on it

A tape on the floor reading: 'Another world is possible."

By the 31st October, a 48-hour ultimatum to leave was given by Lawyers acting for The City of London Corporation. A second man of the cloth was soon to resign. The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, dean of St Paul’s, stepped down as his position had become ‘untenable’. By teatime on the 1st November, The City of London Corporation and St. Paul’s Cathedral had suspended their action against the protesters. I went down there with my crappy little camera as usual and a bag of food for their kitchen. I then wandered around taking pics and listening to debates. I had never encountered so many disillusioned and angry middle class people in my life. Things are looking bad for them too.

A trio of images at the tent city at St. Paul's Cathedral

Another trio of images at the tent city at St. Paul's Cathedral

A banner about caring at St. Paul's Cathedral

At the time of writing, an eviction notice had been posted on the tents urging the protesters to leave by 6pm tomorrow (UK time), otherwise the legal wheels would be set in motion and the battle of the domes (church, camp and The City) would begin. Will the tent city be gone by 6pm tomorrow? What do you think?!

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17 comments

  1. I feel that as long as people protest peacefully then they should be allowed. I feel like people in power are so removed from what’s actually going on (as opposed to being in the know to simply remain in power) that they need to be reminded by everyday people. If that means camping out on Wallstreet or in front of St Paul’s then so be it.

    What about you? Do you think they’ll be gone?


    • Not without a fight, B. Not without a fight.


  2. Pie, tomorrow – the 17th, will tell. Zuccotti Park at the moment is quiet, the tents have gone but the people have not and from what I hear plans are afoot for a turn out in Wall St early tomorrow morning, the 17th. Last night, churches in the East Village opened their doors to provide accommodation to protestors. There are so many good people out there and my motto for the whole movement would have to be that if we care for ourselves we have to care for others. Keep us posted from your end!


    • I’d heard about the big demo in NY on the 17th, Patti. I’m sure the meeja here in Blighty will report it, with all biases present and correct. I’ll do my best to keep you posted on the attempted eviction of the London version. I suspect it’ll take a while.


      • Doing my best from here to keep you posted! Without getting arrested or hurt. It was a rough day yesterday, the 17th down at ZP. I am certainly doing my best to avoid arrest but I can see how easily it might happen.

        You want to read some incredibly reactionary comments? Go to http://www.nypost.com/


        • I saw some of the hysterical headlines on the NY Post regarding this movement and that was more than enough, thank you. It’s the Daily Mail cranked up to 11.

          You’re doing a great job, Patti. Stay safe.


  3. I fail to understand how those who oppose the movement are convinced that these evictions will end the movement.


    • Well, you see, if they sweep away these people, then they won’t have them in their faces asking the hard questions anymore. They can then get back to normal and it will be business as usual.

      The people who oppose this movement can evict the protesters, but the protest won’t stop. This movement has tapped into a deepening sense of unease and anger at having been duped by those who were supposed to be ‘masters of the universe’ in politics and business. We’ve all had it drummed into us from the time we were tiny people: you go to school; you pay your taxes; you work within the law and all will be well. We now see that our reward for doing so is to lose our pensions, lose our jobs, have worthless savings and worry about our children because they can’t get work and may never be able to own their own home. All because some greedy people played fast and loose with the economy, aided and abetted by governments with weak financial regulation. We are all now expected to pay for it and we’re mighty pissed off. This is a movement that has been gathering momentum and won’t go away easily. As was said by a Wall Street protester when their tent city was taken down: “You can’t evict an idea.” I think that statement has become the new slogan.


      • And the fact that you can’t evict an idea…or justice…is what I am surprised they don’t see. It didn’t work in the 1960’s in the US, and it didn’t work across the Middle East and North Africa this spring and summer. The movement grows, and I’m glad.


        • So am I!


  4. It’s quite the dilemma for sure, but I hope that all these protests have an impact and change things. Our society is too heavily divided, there are too many people being screwed over by a greedy minority!

    One bad thing about this group of people, in my area at least, is that it has attracted a few negative people to it. ie. Anarchists and layabouts. There have been fights and litter in the area where they occupy, which makes them look bad and doesn’t exactly help their cause!


    • Yup. We’re currently screwed, but let’s hope this really will be a catalyst for real change and that we don’t all get back to the good ol’ days when the economy eventually turns to the positive.

      In answer to your second point: unfortunately, you’ll always get these people piggybacking on to things like this. They’re the same as bankers in my view, because they’re just as one-dimensional and grasping. They look out only for themselves and their agenda is the only thing that matters, regardless of the damage it does to those around them. Selfish mofos.


  5. Great pictures as always, Pie. The so-called crappy camera does a great job.

    All the huffing and puffing about “what’s their agenda?” makes no sense. How about bringing attention to bankers breaking laws and having no consequences?

    In the US, an issue that hasn’t yet been raised is how insurance companies refuse to cover normal and necessary medical expenses and cut people off their insurance when they get very sick. This goes right along with the banking cartel’s use of the money of middle class people to build up their own profits.

    Many of us in the 99% in the US need also look at our own contributions to the crisis. So many of us got caught up in the housing bubble and bought homes way beyond their means. Of course this does not minimize the effects of job loss and young people having dismal prospects for their futures. It’s just that we boost our credibility and power by taking responsibility in a way that the banking cartel wiggles out of.


    • When they cut off the insurance of people who become very ill (which is what insurance is for, yes?), is it just those who have inadequate insurance, or does it run across the board? It’s a disgrace regardless.

      We had the housing bubble here too, of course. The prices spiralled upwards and those who were lucky enough to buy 10-15 years ago, or had enough funds to do so, even when the prices started to read like telephone numbers, were sitting on a lovely nest egg. Unfortunately, there were also those who borrowed well beyond their means, with the bank allowing people to borrow up to six times their salaries. Six times! What kind of nonsense was that? It could only end in tears, and so it came to pass. Let’s see if any of these issues will lead to tighter regulations, or if this will be a case of the same old, same old, once the dust has settled.


      • Insurance companies across the board here cut people off when they’re diagnosed with cancer, for example, if the company can find tiny mistakes in how the person completed the original application. I’m not talking about attempts to defraud the company, but mistakes caused by human error or not understanding these complicated applications.

        They also won’t insure new applicants if they have mental illness, HIV, heart problems, and so forth — those least able to afford our incredibly expensive health care on their own. To their credit, though, some of these companies will insure these folks if they pay exorbitant premiums.

        Michael Moore made a very good movie called “Sicko” about the American health insurance industry in his usual disturbing and hilarious way. If you’d like to get some insight into our admirable system, take a look at it — you’ll be horrified.

        Mortgages for six times a person’s salary would be funny were it not so outrageous. Did banks in Britain pull the same stunts as they did over here in giving mortgages without even asking people what their incomes were?

        I’m hopeful that because the “agenda-less” Occupy movement is so strong that politicians won’t be able to get away with continuing to ignore these issues.


        • P.S. Sorry for such a long rant!


          • That’s OK. Your explanation has given me an idea of what it’s like to be sick in America. I’m sure you won’t be insulted if I say it’s a country I probably won’t be emigrating to right now. Because based on my finances, I’d be dead in a week.



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