Protesters have moved into a derelict office block owned by bailed-out bank giant UBS. It is being transformed into a squat/community centre/conference centre open to friends and guests to discuss ideas. And banks. And a lot of other things.
Sunday was only the third day in its existence and there were 5 lectures, 4 workshops, a conference of national Occupy protestors and a comedy gig.
Organisers aim to expand through the floors as they find use for all the different spaces. A youth centre has already applied to use some space as a hub since its funding was slashed in austerity cuts.
The ‘bank’ had garnered a lot of press interest when it opened and students, protesters and curious members of the public of all ages were milling around on the inside.
I’m writing a feature on The Bank of Ideas, what it means for the Occupy movement and its future this week. So watch this space.
For details on visiting and what’s happening, go to their site.
I’ve been asking myself that question following today’s student protest in London. Well I say student, but there were also electricians and, even more bizzarrely, cabbies fighting their corner. However diverse the protesters were, they were unified by their apparent calm and obedience.
Apparently at least. I hopped around London this afternoon from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s to Moorgate and saw barely a protester in sight. There was a large group of anti-capitalist protesters in Finsbury Square, but I have a suspicion they were there anyway.
I spent some time at a police cordon near a kettle, but onlookers were kept so far away that it couldn’t be seen. Apparently protesters were being allowed to leave but it must have been from a different side because the sharp-suited city workers who kept appearing were definitely passers-by.
The dominant image of the afternoon was lots and lots of police, barriers, cones and vans. Reports estimate that 4,000 officers policed the protest.
Maybe that was why there was no repeat of the ‘direct action’, criminal damage or whatever you want to call it that happened at Millbank a year ago and subsequent protests. Protesters may also, understandably been subdued by threats of rubber bullets and ‘warning letters‘ distributed by the Met.
And the result? A very subdued media response.
While I don’t think that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ always holds true, the articles I have seen today have mostly been relegated down news pages and mundanely remarking about the ‘peaceful‘ nature of the protest and its policing.
What I haven’t yet seen is a discussion of the issues behind it on the scale seen last year when people responded explosively to protesters’ actions. Despite the criticism, education cuts and fee rises became a hot topic that narrowed the majority of MPs voting in favour of the reform to a very uncomfortable swing.
The protesters were defeated last year and in attempting to reverse that defeat, needed to make an even greater impact today. They didn’t. Time will tell if legitimate peaceful protest or attention-grabbing direct action will have a greater effect.
Just some of the completely random and sometimes bizarre subjects of my news articles for The Surrey Comet and Elmbridge Guardian. Check them out in the catalogue, it’s amazing what news can turn up in such a small area.
On a side note, I went to the Occupy London protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral today. It was fantastic! There was music, dancing, a library, lectures and a performance of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ all happening at once. It’s very chilled-out and welcoming place, I’d urge anyone in London to go and have a look. Plenty of food for thought and opportunities to get involved in the multitude of organisations camped out there.
Last week, The Zahir published my latest feature. ‘Climate of suspicion’ looks at the surveillance operations at work within environmental protest groups and the treatment of green activists by the UK police force.
After a two year hiatus, I have decided to return to news reporting. I will still be writing features, comment and satire but a few news reports will be creeping in as well. I’ve got my ear to the ground so if you have any news from York (preferably student related) let me know!
The subjects of my most recent three articles are completely separate but equally topical. A satire on our Foreign Secretary’s efforts to take some form of stand against Gaddafi and his inhumane and brutal response to dissent was published today in The Lemon Press. Tomorrow (hopefully), my feature on open prisons and Ford will be published in York Vision. It was delayed because of an editorial changeover. In the next few weeks, University culture magazine The Zahir will be published, including my feature on undercover policing environmental protest groups.
And there’s more to come! I am also in the process of writing a feature for The F Word. It will explore current slang trends such as ‘bromance’ and ‘man-up’ and what this swing towards male-centric language means.
…is the title of a feature that I’ve just had published in York Vision. It explores this history of annual women’s event Reclaim the Night and its transformation over the years. It discusses its relevance today in light of the police response to the murder of Joanna Yeates and the way the event can be used to draw support for many causes. The University of York’s Reclaim the Night event is happening tomorrow night as part of a campaign for better lighting around the campus.
I’ve had a mad spate of writing in the last week and have added a couple of recently published articles to the catalogue. ‘In faith we march on’ is a comment article on the importance of continued protests and under the new category; ‘About me’ (articles written by other people, not myself!) there is an article based on an interview I gave to a University newspaper about my experience of protesting, appearing on Question Time and writing for the Guardian.
Soon to come:
- Satire article on Yorkshire ‘earthquake’
- Feature on Ford open prison, including an interview with a former inmate.
- Feature on Reclaim the Night at York University.
As promised, I have typed up my notes from the student protest in London on 24th November 2010. At points, I’ve had to insert comments in italics to make events clearer, but everything else was written on the day. Unfortunately, the coverage ends quite abruptly as I had to leave to appear on Young Persons’ Question Time for BBC 3. I was only at the protest for about 4 hours, but I’d say it was a defining day in my life.
Look out for the encounter with the injured student at 14.40 and the police medic’s refusal to treat him. See 15.15 for a policeman’s view on journalism and a baton charge.
I’ve also included some pictures I took in a gallery at the bottom.
On the (newly modified) ‘Unpublished articles’ page, you’ll now find ‘Placards, police and partying: My day at Millbank.’ It is the original eyewitness report on my experience of the first student protest in London on 10th November 2010. I was unhappy with the very revised version published by a university newspaper so have published my original here in full.
Soon I’m going to write up the notes on the 24th November protest. Regrettably, I never wrote them up into an article, but I think it’s important to record the events of the day from eyes on the ground rather than those in the Sky.