Going back to the protests on Friday and Saturday, reminded me of how much had changed since the first day. The unity among the people out there was unwavering, however the message a bit incoherent. At times, I thought it was the same point said in a few different ways.
St. Paul’s was surrounded by more than two hundred tents compared to two I had seen last time. And by now the Canon had changed his mind on whether he really wanted to support them as it was disrupting daily church activities, and further impacted donations that averaged between £18k -20 k per day.
However on speaking with some of the protesters, I realised they had plans of moving nowhere. With the exception of a few hundreds that have now set up base in Finsbury square not too far away from St. Paul’s. And then many of my friends and colleagues question whether these are people with jobs or are they just here whiling away their time in the tents and enjoying the sunshine.
I can’t speak for all, but of the few I met there, I knew had jobs to go back to. They took turns to camp out there on their days off and returned to work the following day. And I realised if you were looking for a tent, people would lend you theirs as long as you took responsibility till the next day.
A lot of this surprised me, especially after moving to a city where an image is built of gang culture, burglars, scam operators, traffickers etc. Not like they don’t exist, it does as in every big city. But at the heart of it, I can say personally the peaceful demonstrations has dispelled unnecessary fears of the rebellious and violent culture along the streets of London that has been projected in the media more recently. And especially after the riots restored faith in many around that we are all human, and this is what it feels to be part of a community and fight for something you care about.
In a week’s time, it was commendable to see a library, a canteen, tech tent, a university, meditation room, night loos in place. The protesters were even respectful of a wedding that was taking place the same morning at the cathedral and stopped their speeches for awhile. Indeed a historic moment for the couple too
As I had to leave, Leo informed me, by then many of the protesters and attendees to the Saturday anniversary event moved to a nearby teach in by the ‘Tent University’ where several economists and writers gathered to share their perspective on the issue of Capitalism based on well-researched and thorough facts. Polly Toynbee from the Guardian said, ” If the ten per cent richest in the UK paid twenty percent of their wealth and property tax, not income, deficit would be cleared at a stroke.”
And so much so that “25 trillion dollars of private wealth is actually held in tax havens.”
Much remains to be seen as to what happens next. A manifesto is in place; perhaps a little bit coherence and practical goals will change things. The church is now in a legal battle to have the protesters move, whether they do is a question that remains unanswered.