The legacy of the Occupy movement

Just after midnight on 28 February, police and bailiffs finally moved in to evict the Occupy LSX protest, which had been camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London for nearly five months. The legal battle to keep the camp going had been exhausted six days earlier, when the protesters’ appeal against attempts by the City of London Corporation to remove them was rejected by the Court of Appeal.

Protesters were given just five minutes to clear their belongings before the encampment was dismantled – although not without some determined resistance. A makeshift barricade was built and used to hold off the police and bailiffs for a while before it was broken down and the protesters were arrested. St Paul’s Cathedral was complicit in the attack, giving the police permission to seize protesters who took refuge on the Cathedral steps – an area not covered by the court ruling. The same morning the School of Ideas, based in a derelict school in Islington, was also evicted.

Occupy London began on 15 October 2011, following the US Occupy Wall Street which had begun in September, itself inspired by the 15 May movement in Spain and the Arab Spring. The initial plan had been to occupy the London stock exchange, but when police prevented them the protesters decided to camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral nearby, on land owned by the City of London Corporation. From this base camp, other occupations emerged such as the Bank of Ideas in a UBS office building in Hackney, Occupy Justice in a disused court in Old Street, The School of Ideas and Occupy Finsbury Square – the latter is still there, along with a new occupation in Limehouse and more expected in the future. These sites have been home to free education programmes, free food and General Assemblies, where anyone could take part and have a say on management and direction. Occupy has hosted events, orchestrated action in solidarity with other movements, and even printed their own newspaper.

The Occupy movement brought together many different forces calling for change within our current unethical system. The debate on what kind of change is needed and how it is to be brought about has been one of the most exciting aspects, as all sorts of different ideas and solutions that are ignored by mainstream politics or the media have been discussed. Everyone contributes different insights, ideas and information with a view to helping achieve real change. Many of these people will eventually be part of a new, global anti-imperialist struggle, unified against competitive exploitation. Those involved in Occupy are sick of the financial sector’s stranglehold on the economy and the corporations’ influence in politics. Most importantly, many of them are beginning to ask where the wealth of this country and the other western countries actually comes from. The reality of that unequal relationship is the most pressing issue in the world. Regardless of whether people have a political concept of anti-imperialist struggle, the very fact that they’ve got involved in a movement that not only fights for justice for people in this country but takes on the global struggle, means that they are engaging with anti-imperialism on a practical level and beginning to understand what imperialism is doing to the oppressed worldwide.

Nathan Robert

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism 226 April/May 2012


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