Susie was back in London from France and she suggested I go check out the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral.
“I was impressed,” she said. “They are really organized.”
Susie should know. She’s done her share of NGO work.
I’d been meaning to go down there. It was on my to-do list, just like washing clothes, scheduling an appointment with a dentist for a checkup, jogging every morning and finally getting my life in general order. But no, I really should do this. I need to educate myself and understand what is going on. The only way to do that is to actually get out of my routine and make it happen.
I arrived and realized Susie was right. They were organized.
I had expected to see the protestors the moment I got off the central line at St Paul’s Cathedral, but instead they were neatly aligned on the side. Once you arrived in the area, posters and banners containing political messages were prevalent, but most protestors themselves were at the general assembly meeting in front of the cathedral. After wandering around and spotting the kitchen where 3 meals are served daily, the library where books are freely loaned, the first aid tent, a music tent and the info centre, I decided to climb onto the steps of the cathedral and listen in.
Working group announcements were taking place. Since St Paul’s had been so kind as to let the protestors stay, it was strongly encouraged and required that all members cooperate with the cathedral’s requests. Certain hours of operation were to be respected. Safety and fire hazards were to be obeyed.
A leader from the media working group stood to announce that filming was going to take place. The good, bad and the ugly were all going to be recorded. If there was any ugly, it was not going to be edited out, no matter what the circumstance. “We need to be honest about everything,” he explained. “That is the only way to be the change we want to see.” Hands in the audience raised and were shook to express noiseless excitement and agreement.
Another working group leader stood up and took a vote regarding meetings with public officials. Several people in the crowd stood up to express their opinions. Anyone who wished to speak was allowed their time to talk with proper attention and respect. The debate continued on. What is our goal? Are we heading toward our goal without compromising? Is this a compromise that we feel OK making?
Oh my. Could this be the type of democracy I learned about in grade school? Where we all listen to each other and go forward with a majority consensus? Where we respect one another and focus on a common shared end goal?
It is true that I only dropped in for a few hours. The real trick at these things seems to be to stick with it without compromising your core values.
I left the general assembly in search of the Tent City University. This was what truly sparked my interest: a series of lectures given for free. I wanted to know more about the issues.
When I arrived, Anthea Lawson from Global Witness was giving a talk on the process that enables criminals and brutal dictators to outflow their money into the global tax haven network of banks.
Next up was academic Mike Neary to discuss different approaches to education. As a group, the room explored concepts and strategies for education and skill sharing.
A woman sat breastfeeding in the corner. Two school aged children entered with their dad and stood in the back. A middle-aged visually impaired woman came and sat on the cushion next to me. The people in the room were from all over and represented various socio-economic backgrounds, ages, colours and life circumstances.
I left for the day more knowledgeable of our social system and with an understanding of what #OccupyLSX was all about.
I thought about how I could stay and learn for quite a long time. I then thought about my life and how I was a bit eager to get back to it. I have a lot of respect for those who have relocated here away from their comfy beds or those who commute in and give up their days to organize and run such a long-term event.
If you have some spare time, I recommend a visit. Even if you are unsure about the movement or don’t care to volunteer, they are happy to have you stop in and learn.
Knowledge is power and truth is love, y’all.
OccupyLSX has expanded to include Finsbury Square. Check out the organization website to find a schedule of events or how to get more involved.
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