It’s almost impossible to see through the spin and opinion in the mainstream media to get a picture of what the Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX) camp at St. Paul’s is really like. Earlier this week a friend and I spent the morning there to get a feel of what’s going on…
From the welcome tent onwards the camp was clean and well organised. Events, activities, seminars, noticeboards, jobs to do, FAQ – it’s all there.
The Welcome tent backs onto the library and ‘tent university’ (a room for seminars.)
Everyone I spoke to seemed to have a clear role – chef, taking witness statements, welfare team, clean-up, London corporation policy group, welcome crew, press spokesperson.
The Public face:
“We try to answer the questions of all the general public properly and with respect. At night we get drunk bankers coming to ‘confess’ and we talk. If someone comes angry and pissed up we ask them to come back tomorrow.”
A cup of tea, serenaded by the piano (donation box available). It struck me how well everyone I spoke to genuinely listened, even when they disagreed. I half expected everyone to rant on their chosen hobbyhorse, but there was a strong culture of interest and discussion.
When someone came in with a bottle of vodka the person responsible moved him on straight away.
“There was alcohol trouble in the tea tent a few days ago – I’m making it nice again.”
The police are a constant background presence, but no-one I spoke to mentioned them.
The General Assembly is held on St. Paul’s steps twice a day and operates by consensus (sadly we couldn’t stay for it), but the Working groups mean that those prepared to do the work rather than just criticise have more influence.
“I don’t normally go to the GAs. I abide by what they say, but they go on soooo long.”
“There’s some people who think that they run the place, but they don’t. We all lead ourselves and that then influences others around us in particular areas.”
I asked quite a few people where they thought the camp was going and what would be the end result. It seemed like I was asking the wrong question.
There’s lots of people working on specific concrete demands in various areas, but somehow that wasn’t the primary focus. Instead people wanted to create a safe space where people could talk and be themselves outside of the mainstream system. Process was as important as outcome.They wanted to model something different in terms of decision making and human interaction.
Some talked of going home for a few days, some said that this was there home now.
“I came to visit a friend of mine and I’ve never left. I’ve no plans to go. This is where I need to be.”