Thursday, 15 December 2011

Bye Bye Occupy

The exodus from Victoria Gardens begins...
I noticed while driving in Brighton the other day that Brighton's Occupy movement has disappeared, so hold that delivery of a nativity scene for them for Christmas.

The BBC report, with attending picture (left) is a little confusing as to why the 'occupation' of Victoria Gardens suddenly ended.

The Occupy Movement's Brighton Blog has this message for its supporters:

'Firstly we would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has supported the Occupation in Victoria Gardens.

The camp has been destroyed by a combination of terrible storms and a fire at the camp which damaged tents and equipment beyond repair. The site has now been removed.

We have done our best to re-seed the garden, even though it is really the wrong time of year. The park and the local people that visited us have a special place in all our hearts now. We will continue to repair the park until it is as good, or probably better than when we found it.

The Occupy Movement in Brighton is far from over, please keep watching here and on Facebook for more info.

We also have a forum here where you are free to discuss any of the issues and we will be expanding the website with more information about the experiences at the camp, what we have learnt and what we can do to make a better system for us all.'

Inspiring. If only Lenin's supporters had been so easily put off by bad weather and so considerate, we wouldn't have had a century of communism and mass murder to contend with. These guys are my kind of revolutionaries. Re-seeding of the 'occupation lawn' having experienced bad weather and thought better of the revolution after all! That's just the kind of radical anti-establishment behaviour that will have those huge corporations shuddering in their shoes! I mean, what with the Occupy movement involving some people with money in the bank, couldn't they have, perhaps, er, bought some new tents?

The BBC report has some interesting information too. For instance, the report says that 'the leader of Brighton's Green-run council, Bill Randall, said because of this he would not tolerate another similar camp in future.' Yet, apparently, this movement had the backing of the Green MP Caroline Lucas and the camp had been assured that all the authorities, including the police, had no problem with them. Confusing or what? Now The Argus is headlining with the story that the Council have 'banned' such camps from Brighton in the future, though this story is yet to make it onto the online edition of their paper.

Malcolm Cook, someone I know from my time at the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project, is quoted in the BBC report. If you read it, you'll see that it uses quite a lot of BBC-speak. That is, they can say something without actually saying it. Notice how the homeless are being put to blame for the ending of the camp:

Ch Insp Simon Nelson, from Sussex Police, said: "It is disappointing that after many weeks of peaceful occupation an event has occurred which put the safety of others at risk, damaged the environment and resulted in a public servant being assaulted. Most of the occupiers were committed to a peaceful protest and even assisted with clearing the site, but over a period of time the camp had been infiltrated by others who did not share this commitment."

So, the camp fire rolled around on the floor and set fire to a tent? Big deal! Accidents will happen.

One of the occupiers, Malcolm Cook, said the camp had started to attract people with drug and alcohol problems. A large part of the camp's infrastructure was destroyed by bad weather, resulting in the occupiers deciding to leave. However, he said he was proud of what the camp had accomplished. "I'm overwhelmed with what it has achieved," [Sorry, run that by me one more time. What has been achieved again?] he said. "The amount of attention we've received for our cause, for a few tents in the park, is outstanding." [Ah, you received attention. Now, that's an achievement.]

So, from this I think we can glean that the original situation of the Occupy Movement of being a peaceful movement of middle class anarchists was tolerated by the authorities, but that homeless people were attracted to the sight of loads of tents in a park and then the movement had to be closed down, with the agreement of the group themselves, and a stormy night of weather was the perfect excuse for it to be ended.

I've no doubt that the homeless have drug and alcohol problems, but the fact that people have drug and alcohol problems does not necessarily mean that the camp would suddenly become not a peaceful protest. If anything, their residence there would have refined the Occupy Movement's agenda, if they had been so thoughtful as to listen to what is going on in the lives of the homeless and had been so gracious enough as to care.

My guess is that, in the end, the middle class kids couldn't get on with the homeless people because they didn't want 'people like that' there and didn't understand where they were coming from. It looks, to me, rather like 'democracy' here might just have failed, within the camp and without it.  Homeless people in this town have genuine grievances with no recourse to justice. Long term readers of this blog will be aware of many of those grievances and the causes of so much of the injustice. Ultimately, ten or twenty anarchists who have their own flats, some of whom work, but who join together daily at a local peace camp against capitalism and gather around a fire is not a threat to the 'existing order'. There are loads of socialists and marxists who work for the Council. No, a threat to the 'existing order' would be 10 or 20 homeless men and women sleeping in tents in a park with signs up saying, 'We want human rights'.

More on that later.

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