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Occupy London: The Saga Continues

They're gaining momentum with a move to the UBS building in the City

Written by . Published on November 21st 2011.

Occupy London: The Saga Continues

EXACTLY a month after taking over a space outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the Occupy London Movement seized control over the disused UBS building in the city’s financial district.

The occupation of the UBS building is another example of how, far from running out of steam, the OLM seems to be growing in confidence. The OLM have now set up in three locations in the centre of London.

Shortly after the occupation at St Paul’s, another camp began to take root in Finsbury Square. This was in pure city worker heartland, the uniform shades of the business-like – the driving force of the economy.  The square that started off looking a little tatty round the edges has been transformed to something resembling a garden fête only missing a little smidgen of horticulture here and there. 

They are hopeful that some form of direct democracy can take place, where people have a greater understanding of issues that concern them and ultimately how they can have a greater say and maybe actually even change things.  

As I stand and observe, I can see a real cross section of the community, a collection of earnest, friendly men and women of varying ages. Elderly, sweet grandmothers and ridiculously polite elder gents swing by to offer support or help out, random cars, fire engines and vans toot as they go by. More encouragement for their cause.

Manning the info point is Mike. An articulate and affable bloke. He tells his story of an evolved activist. He admits to being the ‘angry young man’ stereotype in his early years of activism in causes such as the Newbury bypass protest back in the mid '90s. After becoming jaded with the anti-authority nihilism that was prevalent, he limped away qualified as a tree surgeon, got married and settled down. 

Fast forward a decade to when he heard about OLM and went down out of curiosity and found that things had changed. The level of organisation and purpose was different. Mike tells how there are still a few angry, young men but they are brought into line, made to pitch in and be useful, channel that aggression helping out where it’s needed.  


“You get guys that want to play dub step after the 11pm curfew, but they have to curb their youthful rebellious nature as others have to work in the morning,” said Mike. He tells how the Finsbury camp was the recent victim of some opportunists who bashed a night watchman and stole generators. As a result, "we have some nice burly Polish guys that keep watch at night," said Mike.

Down at the UBS building, considering that it’s been a little over a day since OLM took over the premises, it’s a hive of activity. They have wasted no time in beginning to utilise the space. A clean cut young man, the type of fresh faced, rosy cheeked cove that mothers would approve off, is giving an insightful, interesting and eye opening lecture relating to a number of issues including data protection, new technology surveillance and transparency. The room has to be adapted three times to try and accommodate the growing numbers and increasingly packed audience. While there maybe the odd militant crazy and a few harmless new age hippies at Finsbury and St Paul’s, at first glance those taking interest at UBS resemble a different looking and more focused bunch. They are presentable, calm and thoughtful, listening, sharing opinions and experiences. Some already have interests in pressure groups, most just have a variety of day jobs and professions.  

There is no rapid anti-capitalist vibe, but rather people who have come to together because they are not happy at many aspects of how society is being run today. They are hopeful that some form of direct democracy can take place, where people have a greater understanding of issues that concern them and ultimately how they can have a greater say and maybe actually even change things.  The OLM is optimistic that the UBS building could become a headquarters for groups of collectives working towards common ideals. And there is not a visible ‘crusty’ in sight.

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Flora Neighbour shared this on Facebook on November 22nd 2011.
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