I had been meaning to offer solidarity to the St Paul’s Camp for days and decided to spend last Wednesday there with the tenters. I arrived from the Tube fired up that someone is making a visible statement, to cry out against the extreme levels of inequality in our society. It has been too long.
From the hedonistic values and consumer culture of the ‘there is no such thing as society’ eighties, is main stream society now getting the message of social justice? Has the financial crisis seen a phoenix begin to arise from the violent ashes of recession?
I went down the alley close to the Cathedral via the cash point, reflecting on the fact I had ready cash, and saw the tops of tents around the side of the site. I was anxious in case there was an aggressive police presence; remembering three hours of kettling on the Student March last November.
But it was fine! Relaxed, wet, a bit miserable…tents of children painting, tents for faith groups, tents for bags and supplies. Posters asking for volunteer first aiders and night guards for the kitchen. My favourite banner was ‘Compost Capitalism’, and a beautiful small embroidery saying ‘liberation’ hanging on the official wire fencing. A row of recycling bins…boy they are good!
One tent was selling cakes and teas, like a church fete. I wanted to make a donation so asked a guy who to speak to – he guided me, and as he went repositioned tents on the way, ones which the rain and wind had blown over. There was nothing to stake the tents to …some had bags of rubble; others, a wing and a prayer.
‘We all look after each other’ he said as he fiddled with the guy ropes …great, I thought, a tight group. I had read in the paper about their voting system and how hand signals were used for the group to indicate the need to talk, the need to shut up and to give someone else a go, and how to agree or disagree. Well organised.
My guide, who I was worried about being cold, was handing out leaflets to passers-by. It was a bit of a cattle market with tourists taking pictures… but what a great location to spread the word!
I went to the Info Tent (good organisation), with info on the day’s events: a discussion on the Tobin tax; faith tent mediation (shame I missed it). The tent had hand-sewn fabric pigeon holes for the different groups for messages; I clocked the ‘outreach group’ one.
There were huddles of young people standing around, talking about issues. After donating I wandered freely …reading the posters and looking at the art and messages woven into the wire fencing by the wind and rain. There was also a donation spot for food.
I took a bunch of ‘Occupy London’ flyers and started to hand them out, and wandered back to Evensong at Southwark Cathedral, distributing I went. Walking cross the Millennium Bridge I reflected on the camp and its Statement of Consensus reached on different issues, which were printed on the reverse of their flyer. I agreed strongly with each one. I felt exhilarated and wondered what would be useful support to keep those guys warm in the cold and wet over the coming days and hopefully months.
What will happen next, who knows? But it is true that anything is possible, even in our ordered British society. You just don’t know!