Posts Tagged ‘occupation’

We’re trying to make this a lovely and enjoyable space full of good discussion and immense sense of movement…heh. Some people are campers and some are not, but this may be a good time to test your boundaries, at least for an hour or two! So below is our wishlist and invitation to all the London anticuts groups to come on down and join us, if you’re interested let Andrea know — text would be good or if you don’t have my phone number email comical.y.que@gmail.com and I just might give it to you!

An urgent call to arms to all anti-cuts activists…

Activists representing Lewisham anti-cuts alliance, Southwark SOS and Lambeth SOS finally set up a  gazebo at the Finsbury Square anti-capitalist occupation! The working group at the camp, dealing with tents, were so happy for us to be there that they offered us a prime spot to the front of the camp. Our plot number is 37.

We urgently need donations and volunteers in order to make this as effective as possible! eg Rugs (to go over the ground sheet) / Pillows / Blow up mattresses or single futon or camping mats / LED battery powered lights / Fold up information table / Anticuts banners / Anticuts literature or posters / fold up chairs / Battery powered radio / Hot water bottles / Blankets / Musicians to lift our spirits!

If we make it as comfortable as possible people will not feel it is a chore to stay overnight! Of course only one or two people will need to stay overnight but I would encourage everyone to come down for a few hours and offer moral support.

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We started off with just a little gazebo to mark our territory, a roof no more to show that some of the local anti-cuts groups were willing to be present and part of this whole occupation movement that is sweeping the US and the UK. We know not everyone is entirely optimistic that this will be the thing that sparks off a mass movement to stop the utter destruction of the welfare state in order to fund welfare for banks, but something must.

So on Tuesday some folks from Lambeth and Lewisham headed over. We were all working the next day — a reality that makes it difficult to camp out over night, we know. So we didn’t. But we did put up a small gazebo…I fear that it collapsed during the night as I overhead a snide comment the next day, and saw it had been moved to shelter one of the organizational working groups at the occupation (we had offered it for that, so we didn’t mind).

Despite the highly artistic nature of the pictures (the word artistic is preferred to technically challenged), the world is not actually on fire and we are actually solid human beings. We hurried so we could attend the General Assembly at 7 pm. It’s a bit like stumbling into a different world really, the way people speak, the arguments about process. Given that the camp is new, it was entirely logistical I’m afraid. But there is really a delightful feel about the place, there is food and drink, and the technical meeting will have been moved to the mornings so that the evenings can be full of exciting and heated political discussion which we imagine will be exciting to everyone, activist or not. Why are people there? What do we want to achieve? How can we work together? How can we engage more people? We hope that these will be the kinds of debates happening in the days to come.

So last night we returned with a truly splendid gazebo which for now shall remain un-pictured…but it has sides that zip open and closed, and is beautifully waterproof. The goal is to have a space where folks from Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark can just drop by, hang out, talk to people, get support to save our services. We’d love to maybe have some meetings there, invite the other London anti-cuts groups, engage with this wider movement, play some music or cards or charades. We’d also love to have a rotation of people who can stay, or perhaps plan a Friday or Saturday slumber party…

The blog for the Finsbury Square occupation is here, and you can follow them on twitter and facebook. There’s also a new independant newspaper just started up for the occupy movement, very awesome, you can follow them here. Some pictures from Indymedia are here, and of course you can also read more at the Guardian or the BBC. The second two articles are focused primarily on St Paul’s and its reasons for closing. On a very personal aside, I find that quite ridiculous. The church I was raised with would have opened its doors to the protestors actually, the way it did to refugees as part of the Sanctuary movement, but I suppose everyone interprets giving up your possessions and taking care of others in their own way.

Just a last note, the police are definitely present, but it’s been relatively relaxed as they wander around in pairs…of course, they’re squandering a great deal of resources in surveilling everything, using thermal imaging and helicopters like they don’t have crime to fight! But there’s been no rubber bullets or teargas like Oakland. It’s not a small point that much of this is simply to ensure the UK does not go the way of poverty and repression found in the US.

We hope to see as many of you as can come to support  the pensioners’ struggle against the closure of the Golden Years Centre!

When:  This Wednesday 13th April at noon
Where: Phoenix House Headquarters of Lambeth Social Services in Vauxhall.
(10 Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LL)

The press release follows, with pictures from a great article on the centre in The Prisma

For the first time in a long time and for the first time in the history of London (and maybe the history of England) a group of Latin American pensioners will picket outside Phoenix House, Headquarters of Lambeth Social Services in Vauxhall. (10 Wandsworth Road, London, SW8 2LL).

The protest will take place next Wednesday 13th April from Midday onwards, against the complete indifference that UK politicians, local authorities and media have shown faced with their immenent closure and against which they have been fighting for almost a year.

“Los Años Dorados” (The Golden Years Day Center) is the only organisation that exists in the UK that is dedicated to helping Latin American pensioners. It has been in existence some 20 years.

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It felt extraordinary! As we massed on the steps, the crowd outside was so impressive, and the noise was like nothing, absolutely nothing I have ever heard before, as the cars, trucks and buses passing all slowed down, cheering and honking to show their support.

It was tricky even getting in. And so we got fed up and took democracy into our own hands. This is what it felt like as we forced our way up the stairs and into the main council chamber after they refused to even let us into the overflow room to hear our people testifying to the council:

I’m usually the one with the camera, so it is magic to have someone else catch my face (and Ali’s!) at such a moment of happiness (photo by Guy Smallman, he’s got some great pics!). I found my face featuring heavily in the Socialist Worker article; I’m not swp, but I loved that so many groups were able to come together to pull off such an incredible night.

I’m late writing this up due to exhaustion and another day of protest yesterday, and you can read the full coverage from the Guardian here. We heard this article some time after midnight, sitting in the Brixton Bar and Grill and clustered around Andy as he read it off of his phone. The victory was particularly sweet as a section of Lambeth’s Labour Council was also in the Brixton Bar and Grill, we spotted them in their suits as soon as we entered the door. Celebrating one would guess. Some words were exchanged, some hilarious dancing, but no blows. I twittered that their hangover was going to be far worse than mine, and doubtless I was right. Especially since it’s a cocktail of liquor, guilt and responsibility for carrying out this unprecedented attack on the welfare state.

Not us of course, we were celebrating a victory in the good fight, and the Guardian article was just icing. What got the most cheers upon reading was this: “Demonstrators ranging from trade unionists to pensioners occupied the chamber for more than an hour, taking their seats in what they called a ‘People’s Assembly'” because Lambeth SOS is both big and diverse and it’s a shame that the council tries to brand us otherwise. My favourite though, was “Alex Bigham, a Labour councillor, said that the meeting had been moved to an assembly room after it was disrupted by ‘quite organised protesters'”. Damn straight we are ‘quite organised’. The cuts affect up to a thousand jobs, not just people’s quality of life, but their ability to live itself. This budget will devastate both workers and those who need and deserve the services that they provide.

So a brief rundown on the assembly! Ruth presided over the voting as Mayor of Lambeth, as we voted down a budget that will destroy everything we have fought to build since World War II.

We had a number of great speakers, I can’t do them justice, and am still a bit too tired to try! But these were my favourites, demanding we save adventure playgrounds (pic also by Guy Smallman):

The People’s Assembly support them unequivocally. As we did libraries, park rangers, teachers, school crossing patrols, pensioners, nurses and the NHS, the RMT (who were brilliant by the way, though we could have used their heft getting up the stairs!), students who joined us from the UCL occupation, and everyone else who makes Lambeth a great place to live.  This is just one more step forward, for more info on what’s coming up or how to support, go to http://lambethsaveourservices.org/.

For more written on the events, look at the Urban75 blog, London Indymedia, and the Coalition of Resistance webpage.