Event: Occupy May General Assembly
Location: The Royal Exchange, London
Date: 12 May 2012
Weather: Beautiful warm sunshine.
Starts: 16:45 [following approximately one hour of speakers]
Facilitator: So it looks like this is a general assembly. It looks like we are occupying here. There are tents, there’s a general assembly, there’s even a bit of sunshine. How do people feel? Would you like to have a 30 minute break to dance to the Samba band, or shall we have more speakers? Or shall we break up into discussion groups? [assess views] Okay so let’s break into groups to discuss two things: how are we feeling about being here? and what do we want to do next?
Comment: How are these decisions being made? It seems like some people are controlling things.
Facilitator: Sorry, there were four, and five and six options. … Okay so let’s have open mike for a bit longer.
Comment: The toilets are over there!
Glyn: We need to have everybody’s voice heard. There are loads of people we haven’t heard from.
Technical Point: The toilets are closed!
Peter: My name’s Peter. Great to see all the new faces. We need help so please join in. Some people have been planning today for months. There are loads of great working groups. If you haven’t been involved before, please visit occupylondon.org.uk. We also meet on steps of St Paul’s at 2pm. One of most exciting thing I’ve ever been involved in. We also have a roving GA, starts at 6pm, we go somewhere else. I will be facilitating…
[Facilitator changes from Sam to Peter]
Facilitator: We will take contributions limited to 2 mins.
[shouts of "go on Charlie"]
Charlie: Police have said that if this meeting continues, in half an hour this assembly will be declared illegal.
[loud but incomprehensible police announcement starts...]
Comment: While injustice… [police announcement continues...] like the Tories…
Tammy: The police are talking some gobblygook. We can’t hear it over here.
Comment: While there is a massive show on the streets, there is also action in the ballots. We can also take this back to the workplaces. We should be proposing alternative. I love you! You are standing up for your rights, as people, as citizens of a world free from oppression. First say No. Then say Why. Make sure you discuss amongst yourselves. Thank for coming to make this a really good start to Occupy May!
Comment: We have worked hard at Finsbury Square, we have worked through the Winter. Now Spring is here, we have received eviction notice. So we need your support. We call for your support to keep things positive and help us through.
Comment: [can't hear because police notice continues]
Comment: When we occupied and were told to move we stayed. [police notice continues...]
Comment: I’m Catherine, … about Finsbury Square, it’s always good to leave a place in a better state than when you found it. There are several flower beds which could use your help. I don’t know about you but I’m a Buddhist. The Dalai Lama is visiting St Paul’s next week. Not sure what we can do about this, but we could try to do something because Occupy has also worked towards similar things as him.
Melanie: Desmond Tutu said that if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor*. Hold your ground! Have courage! We need to send a powerful message to the establishment! We want change! What a message would it be if we all got arrested. The bankers are the real criminals! The police should be on them! Have courage!
[*If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.]
Comment: Hello! Did anybody understand the police announcement. Apparently we are all supposed to disperse by 17:45 and without obstructing the highway….
Glyn: Don’t trust anything they say. They have an agenda. Stand true. Stand together. Look they have six riot vans, another two! If we want to stay we can stay.
Comment: On a slightly different note, climate caravan…. taking it round the country. Important to get Occupiers and Trade Unions…. We have the power and can use it, put forward positive solutions. We can run this world a lot better than them!
Facilitator: Anybody else like to come and speak?
Comment: United we stand divided we fall.
Comment: The announcement is not valid. Peaceful protest rules!
Comment: I’m Steve Biko. Hit the target. We are up against global free mason society. What happened to our money? Nobody has had to stand trial. Respect to Occupy! Hold it down!
Facilitator: We’ve turned the volume up. There’s an inaudible broadcast coming from the police van over here. We could break into small groups of 6-8 people to talk about the situation and what we want to do now.
Comment: Samba band!
Facilitator: So we’ll take temperature check on options…. [takes various temperature checks] Okay it’s the Samba Band for 15 mins. Over to the Samba band. … Where’s the Samba band?
[pause without Samba band]
Facilitator: So we have a proposal to do the Conga!
[collective da-da-da-da-da-daa-daa-da-daa-daa-daa ... repeats]
[Facilitator continues conga over the mic whilst two small conga snakes go around for a little while.]
Jamie: There’s another proposal, rather than getting squeezed in here, there’s stuff going on at the Tate, it’s a beautiful walk.
Facilitator: The police have announced they will move in very soon. There are two proposals. Either to stay here, or go to the Tate. Let’s take a temperature check. In favour for staying here? [loud support] In favour of moving to Tate [luke warm support]
Comment: [inaudible due to general noise]
Facilitator: [something about private property]
Comment: We were told at St Paul’s that we had to leave or we would get arrested. But we linked arms and the police went away. [loud chers] A few days ago I was at Paternoster Sq. we were arrested because there were only six people left. Situation calls for us to stand our ground.
Comment: If you sit down it will be harder for the police to move you. Really important that if you decide to stay, that you write down these numbers on your arms. These are the numbers you should call.
Comment: The polic have applied section 14 but have not explained what the serious disruption to the community is.
Tammy: The police have just told me that if I don’t leave they will put my children in care. [shouts of "boo" and "solidarity"]
[more attempts to establish legal situation]
[nice dub music plays]
Comment: Look at what they do in Syria. There are so many police here, look at all the money spent, just so we can have a chat!
[chants of shame on them]
[nice dub music continues]
Melanie: Just to say: have courage! We are a movement against social inequality and economic injustice. The police should represent the people. Stop representing the powerful! Occupiers, hold your ground!
[nice dub music continues]
[police cordon around assembly closes]
[arrests of people sitting in the assembly begin]
[like a bulldozer made of flesh and bones and heavy protective clothing, two police snatch squads are combined into a single lump of brutality and advance from around the corner. Welcomed in by the opening of the police cordon, it bulldozers into thinly clothed Occupiers peacefully sitting with linked arms on the front steps, before reversing out tugging or towing or marching or mauling away a chosen individual. They go back around the corner overpowering somebody as they go, taking her or him out of sight, preventing any proximity even for legal observers. And then after a while they throw a person in a van, have a little rest, and then keep returning to make these single arrests]
[rave starts up on other side of the road]
[traffic chaos ensues which requires police attention, some police lines abandoned with previously cleared areas filling up with people, rave continues, arrests appear to halt]
[long period of police inactivity]
[pop music, some dancing, anonymous uk return with flags to loud cheers]
[22.30: police suddenly depart, leaving Occupy protesters to go free of arrest]
[jubilation, banner holding, chanting "this is what democracy looks like"]
[everybody congratulates everybody, people go for a drink whilst others stay to chat until after midnight]
[one police van remains which contains a small number of policemen]
[rubbish is collected by Occupiers]
[remaining policeman starts talking about wanting to go home to his unhappy wife who isn't returning his text messages, but he can't whilst people are still there, and also he doesn't get paid overtime]
[remaining people hang around for a bit and then leave]