October 15th 2011 marked a historical day in the anti-capitalist movement, when hundreds of protesters took to the streets to fight against the global financial system and corporate greed. But earlier this morning, the Occupy London Stock Exchange resistance came crashing down as bailiffs and police began evicting the protesters from St. Pauls. The riot police emerged alongside dozens of bailiffs with bin bags and disposal units, as they dismantled the camp. But it did not seem to disassemble the spirit of the activists.
Occupying the London Stock Exchange was a symbolic manoeuvre, attempting to humanise capitalism as it spirals out of control in the 21st century. According to the Occupy ethos, “reclaiming space in the face of the economic systems that have caused terrible injustices across the world can open up and engage our communities into public discussions.” And it certainly has.
The Occupy London School of Ideas opened to communities in Islington, by reusing an abandoned school, complete with 10 class rooms. It prepares for a new phase of community engagement and outreach. The School of Ideas intends to provide a platform for Occupy London to work hand in hand with the local community in Islington, developing programmes of learning and local provision of activities that the community most want to engage with.
Repossessing a bank and relabeling it the ‘Bank of Ideas’ in November 2011, may have been short-lived, however, the impact seemed to be substantial. The former UBS bank was transformed into a “public repossession.” Spokesperson Jack Holborn said: “As banks repossess families’ homes, empty bank property needs to be repossessed by the public.” And despite eviction from the property, the message that ‘corporate greed’ would be challenged stayed firm throughout their occupation in London.
The biggest move came from St. Paul’s Cathedral itself, as the Bishop of London, Dr. Richard Chartres together with St. Paul’s, suspended its legal action against the protest. In a statement on cathedral letterhead, the bishop said: “The alarm bells are ringing all over the world. St. Paul’s has now heard that call. Today’s decision means that the doors are most emphatically open to engage with matters concerning not only those encamped around the Cathedral but millions of others in this country and around the world.”
And there was not just a u-turn on legal proceedings, the canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, resigned in protest within a week of the protests, at plans to forcibly remove activists from its steps, saying he could not support the possibility of “violence in the name of the church”.
But despite the camaraderie amongst the Occupy movement, the High court ruled in favour of the City of London Corporation on January 18th, giving them the power to order the forcible eviction of occupiers from the St Pauls Camp.
George Barda, protester and litigant for the Occupy movement has stated that despite the eviction, the movement will continue. He said “We have a long way to go for “moral capitalism” to become more than a cover for subservience to vested interests that so many of the cabinet themselves epitomise.”
There’s no doubt that the Occupy campaign is an ideological political movement. But it is more than just an anti-capitalist group. It is a real ‘big society’ in the making.