- Pledge to continue the movement’s campaign; OccupyLSX General Assembly tonight – Should I stay or should I go?
- Upcoming initiatives, plans and events this week, policy statements to date
- Can a more equitable society be brought about by legal means alone? Report from Occupy Law event
Occupy London, part of the global movement for social and economic justice, today pledged to continue the campaign it started over four months ago in solidarity with similar campaigns in the US and beyond. Today, the Court of Appeal ruled that none of the five applications presented by Occupy London and Anonymous UK supporters would be heard.
Tammy Samede, the representative appellant on behalf of Occupy London commented: “It is a travesty that today’s decision will limit voices of dissent within the City of London. However, Occupy is far from over. We’ve cut our milk teeth at St Paul’s and now we are maturing, growing and learning how to run. From our work in schools to outreach in communities to even creating a record label, the creativity and imagination of the Occupy movement is beginning to bloom and our voices will be heard.
“The City of London is being wreckless in not providing a timetable for any action they wish to take and it is of great concern that they have refused to rule out the possibility of a nighttime eviction, in contravention of the guidelines set down by the Ministry of Justice.”
Occupy London Stock Exchange at St Paul’s Churchyard, the longest running Occupy encampment of its size, has now been in place over twice as long as Occupy Wall Street’s occupation of Zuccotti Square, which was cleared by NYPD in mid-November in controversial circumstances. Unlike their counterparts in New York, city authorities in London have been forced to comply with the rule of law and pursue their case through the courts.
John Cooper QC commented: “The five day trial and the hearing last week in front of one of the most influential courts in the country has firmly established Occupy as a leading and influential force in public debate. The legal proceedings recognised their integrity, determination and influence for good in modern Society.”
“Of course my clients are disappointed that in accordance with the strict interpretation of domestic law, they have not prevailed today but they do not regret one second of the chance afforded to them to make their case and challenge the approach of the Corporation and the Church.
“My clients will now be urgently considering their next legal steps with their legal team and will, we anticipate, be bringing their case to the European Court of Human Rights to give that Court the opportunity to consider the state of public protest law in Britain.”
Professor John Cooper QC will continue to advise pro bono.”
This is only the beginning
The first press release issued from Occupy London on the occasion of its first General Assembly on 15 October said: “Our movement for change transcends political affiliation – you don’t have to be left or right. Come and join us as we begin to open up a space in London’s Square Mile to start much needed conversations about changes in the financial sector and government, so that they better serve and protect the interests and well being of the country.”
On the terms we set for ourselves, Occupy London’s first four months cannot be seen as anything other than a resounding success.
This is just the beginning. The movement is growing and evolving beyond its spiritual and symbolic home by the steps of St Paul’s near the London Stock Exchange. That we have been able to make our points in court – unlike so many of our sister occupations around the world – secures fair process for all protests that come after us.
Tonight – 7pm Wednesday 22 February – Stay or go? General Assembly at OccupyLSX
Occupy London will hold a General Assembly focusing on the planned future of the Occupy London Stock Exchange occupation. This special GA will take place at 7pm tonight by the steps of St Paul’s and include speakers presenting each side of the argument, with the overall intention of making decisions regarding the future of the camp. As with all Occupy London’s General Assemblies, this GA will be open to press and members of the public.
Occupy London Statements:
- Corporations, City of London, Economics, International, Environment statements – see front of website
- Finsbury Square – just one week younger than Occupy London Stock Exchange and still going strong. Now transforming itself into a sustainable eco-village, raising public awareness in alternative methods of low cost, sustainable community living. Finsbury Square aims to provide hands-on learning opportunities whilst testing, applying and teaching these methods and skills. More info at http://occupii.org/group/
- Occupy London School of Ideas – focusing on education and community engagement in partnership with local residents. The School’s programme includes a series of talks, workshops and ongoing Free University courses in critical thinking, social psychology and cultural studies. More info at : http://wwww.schoolofideas.
- Actions – Occupy London is currently planning a number of upcoming creative actions. Expect us to revisit some previous ‘targets’ and some new ones!
- Occupy Communities / London Walk – Occupy London is due shortly to invite communities across London to join together as it embarks on its largest initiative to date, which will see its General Assemblies, Tent City University, Library and much more visit every Borough in London, to bring people together to talk about shared concerns and values
- Occupy Citizenship – Has started to deliver workshops in schools as part if the national Citizenship curriculum. We are very excited about this. It has much potential to help the movement grow and reach out. More info at http://www.tes.co.uk/
teaching-resource/Occupy-/ http://www.bbc. coming-to-a-secondary-near- you-6167586/ co.uk/news/education-16650613
- Tent City University / Free University - “Anyone can teach, everyone can learn.” In operation from the earliest days of the occupation and still going strong, TCU has a lecture programme to rival any other London educational institution and currently has five weekly courses running at various locations (School of Ideas, Royal Festival and elsewhere). Free Uni courses and info: https://occupywiki.org.
- School of Rockupy – Last week occupiers plus Kate Nash and Sam Duckworth (Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly) together with 30 children, created a song in one day, with one message bringing together some of the Occupy Citizenship and Occupation Records crews. An amazing day – more similar outreach events are planned, and a song and video will be released later this week
- The Occupied Times – The Occupied Times of London is the independent newspaper of and for the London occupations about to publish its eleventh edition. The OT is branching out its distribution network to bookstores across the city and is working on links with the Occupied Wall Street Journal and other Occupy publications
- Occupation Records – Some occupiers from Occupy London are creating a new record label that plans to help musicians and artists around the world to get involved, build, support and fund the Occupy movement in London, around the UK and Ireland, and globally. First album – Folk the Banks – is out next month with a stellar line up of artists including: Ani Di Franco, Tom Morello, Tao Seeger, Billy Bragg and Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
Events this week:.
- 7-9pm Wednesday 22 February – Making Capitalism Responsible panel debate. Occupier Richard Paton will be on a panel debate with Rt Hon Vince Cable MP, Secretary of State for Business and Innovation, and Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) focusing on what whether capitalism can contribute to mending instead of breaking our society. Venue – Oasis, 75 Westminster Bridge Road SE1 7HS
- 11.30am-1pm Thursday 23 February – What are banks worth? teach out at RBS. As RBS publishes its preliminary 2011 results, supporters of Occupy London will be joined by a panel of experts to put the announcement in context by taking the banking debate beyond bonuses and probing the relation between finance and the real economy. Panellests confirmed include Wouter den Haan, Professor of Finance at the LSE; Kevin Dowd, Emeritus Professor, Nottingham Business School; Karel Williams of Manchester Business School and Helen Kersley from the New Economics Foundation. Venue – behind RBS offices at 250 Bishopsgate, just off Brushfield Street E1, near Spitalfields Market
- 7-8.30pm Friday 24 February – Occupy Workfare. Occupy London will hold the latest in its series of roving Friday General Assemblies focusing on the government’s workfare scheme, with invited speakers and occupiers making a surprise appearance at a venue in central London. Venue TBA on the day – check the website, Facebook and Twitter for updates.
- 1pm Saturday 25 February – Greek solidarity event at OccupyLSX – What went wrong? What can be done? And can the UK be next? With guest speakers.
Can a more equitable society be brought about by legal means alone? Report from Occupy Law event
On Monday 20 February, a packed Tent City University hosted Occupy Law, where a distinguished panel provided their insights about how the legal system is both part of the problem and part of the solution to the injustices that Occupy is seeking to address. The panel comprised Prof Conor Gearty, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the LSE, David Wolfe of Matrix Chambers, Sarah Sackman of FTB Chambers, David Allen Green, barrister and New Statesman journalist and Occupy defendant George Barda.
Participants had the chance to hear the panel’s views on two broad themes, and explore these in further detail via clarificatory questions. The first theme centred around the role of civil disobedience in social movements, drawing on past and current examples worldwide, including Occupy and the current eviction case against the St. Paul’s encampment. The second theme explored the extent to which corporations have become indistinguishable from government, how legal structures facilitate this, and what needs to change.
The Occupy movement’s relationship with the law was a pervasive thread throughout the discussion, and the event provided a powerful spark for ongoing debate about how the law can be harnessed to advance a more equitable society – and indeed why this is going to be vital in achieving progress towards true justice.
On the first theme, many of the panellists observed how peaceful protest, including the breaking of unjust laws, has had a role in many historical movements in progressing values and ultimately changing the law in line with those values. As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said in his letter from a Birmingham jail, “An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”
Sarah Sackman for example drew inspiration from legal precedent in the US civil rights movement to show how civil disobedience and pioneering legal challenges can combine to promote fundamental change to frameworks of inequality that have plagued history. Others picked up the same themes, illustrating the role of court action both in developing better law and, even where a challenge is unsuccessful, in shining a light on the need for change: as Connor Gearty said, “losing can become a victory if you transform opinion in the course of your defeat.” Similarly, examples were drawn from other social movements where non-violent civil disobedience has helped push the boundaries of the legal structures underpinning society, and there was a general consensus that this is one of the tools available to the Occupy movement, among a spectrum of many actions within the law.
On the second broad theme of corporatocracy, the panel considered the extent to which the legal system facilitates the disproportionate influence and power of corporations, at the expense of equity and the environment. Important examples that were discussed included corporate personhood, which shields human individuals from the consequences of harmful actions, the privatisation of public space, which is both a barrier to freedom of assembly (as seen with in Canary Wharf when Occupy London sought to protest there) and results in the pervasive presence of corporations, and the unaccountable nature of the City of London Corporation. These are all illustrations of how the legal system acts as a “faithful servant to power” as George Barda said. 
There was nonetheless a strong message from the panel that the rule of law is indispensible. David Allen Green for instance spoke of its vital role in “binding those who wish to oppress us”, articulating the importance of legal structures in holding power to account, with the hacking case being a resounding illustration of this. David Wolfe cited a case where Matrix Chambers acted on behalf of NGOs to challenge the Treasury as majority shareholder in RBS for failing to intervene in its bankrolling of industries responsible for severe environmental and climate damage as well as human rights abuses. Although the challenge itself was unsuccessful, it had been effective in shining a light on the unethical investment practices of RBS, and establishing that the government does have a say in the spending decisions of RBS following the bailout, consequently exposing that failure to exercise this control is a purely political choice.
Other examples of progressive law were also cited; for example, Sarah Sackman spoke of how the law on village greens and rights of way enables the public to trump private interests. Crossing both main themes of the evening, Connor Gearty made the overarching point that legal and political structures and our engagement with these are essential: failure to do so in fact hands a victory straight to those who wish to see a corporate free-for-all.
Fittingly, the formal part of the event finished amidst an enormous sense of a conversation to be continued. As co-organiser and solicitor Melanie Strickland said, we must see this as the beginning of the debate, rather than the debate itself.
 Echoing Einstein’s words that “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”