Occupy London: cautious optimism

“For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. – Ephesians 6:12”
― Saint Paul, The Epistles of Paul and Acts of the Apostles

It is simple to categorize occupy movements around the world as akin to one another in every way. Yet, when you see the forest for the tress, one can see they greatly differ compared to their neighbors. The local issues that the participants are concerned about may be connected to the global issues represented by every protestors and occupier, but the variation between camps and founders of each movement is obvious to a keen observer. Occupy is local in many ways, which is why in London the sites at St. Paul’s are still up and in Canada we only have Occupy Newfoundland-Labrador (brave souls facing the Atlantic) – seemingly with the blessing of the city and it’s legislatures as there is no move to dismantle the site in the foreseeable future. It represents a communities choices and alignment.

The St. Paul’s site for Occupy London has received international attention thanks to the various parties involved: church, state, parishioners, and citizens. There have been reports of defecation on the grounds, and of harassment of tourists and church goers. There was also the well publicized leaving of Giles Fraser, a canon chancellor of St. Paul’s over Twitter. The split within the church itself over the rights of the protestors to be there presented a interesting challenge – it wasn’t citizen’s versus the state. It was a split between ideology, basic religious rights, and the concept of sanctuary all while intersecting with the basic rights of a city.

I visited there on the 22nd of December – what was supposed to be the night before the site had to be dismantled and the community dispersed. The grounds were clean, but the light was dim. The entry tents – information, the “library”, and the food tents, were all clean and staffed with outgoing though certainly not pushy people. I walked around freely, alone. Stopping occasionally to chat to those who milled around. To those in the library, in the media tent, and in the information tent.

Everyone was friendly, and more than willing to talk. This video posted is of a UK business owner, Nicholas Galbraith – a recent convert to the occupy movement. He spoke to me about his reasons for joining the movement and his business philosophy. Many things he said rang true with others I have spoken to about the movement worldwide, but this most of all:

“We’re not here to scrounge off people. We’re here to make a differed throughout the whole world and it will work.”

(The video is split into two parts – please excuse the shoddy iphone quality and amateur editing.)

I spoke to several others while wandering. A doctor who identifies as a communist, a professional activist/environmentalist who has been on the site since the beginning as an organizer and another camp member who was working the kitchen. With each and every person, there was a sense of purpose and of quiet optimism. Each person recognized that Occupy was not just a camp site. It was more than a protest, it was a movement. It was the responsibility of each and every person involved to carry that spirit forward and integrate in their daily lives. No matter where they have come from or where they will go once the camp is taken down.

The news of an extended stay until January delivered that evening trickled through camp as I walked around. It wasn’t returned with yells of victory, or tent parties. It was a quiet night and a few people heard from a few others and the news spread. Little conversations about how much longer their community could stay together, but it didn’t seem to change too many minds about the need to leave eventually. With respect, to keep those who support the occupy movement supportive. The site is a community. With good and bad like any other. There are those who want to carry forward, and those who needed a place to go.

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