Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Visiting St Paul's

I walked the Occupy London encampment outside St Paul's Cathedral today - a wonderful mix of people, with a huge range of views; but filled with hope. The good citizenship of the protesters was evident in every way - from the orderly nature of the layout, to the solar panels powering some of their gear, the recycling bins in the centre, and the "artistic wall" surrounding the cathedral emergency exit, with its injunction not to post banners as these might create a health and safety hazard.

What was immediately evident was that there was never any need at all for the Cathedral to be closed - there is acres of space for tourists to access the building and there was no need for the wedding a couple of weeks ago to have gone in the side entrance. But that seems to be history now anyway as even the Archbishop of Canterbury has today spoken sympathetically of the demands of the camp and supported the "Robin Hood Tax".

"There are even right wingers here," one man told me as he handed out leaflets. "They support capitalism - but not the nasty sort we've got."

As he spoke, the speculators and bankers were having their lunch breaks around the square, tutting at the riotous visual display, their nearby offices and restaurants neatly cordoned off by the police - presumably to stop the violence that never comes, the riot or damage that the demonstrators do not inflict, do not threaten and do not want. Throughout, they have repeatedly offered to talk - to the St Paul's authorities, to the City of London as well as to the bankers, until now with little response.

Things have changed a little in the last day or two, but it is clear that both Church and State hope that their new tactics will reach the same end of moving the demonstration on without effecting the real, systemic changes we need to end the inequality and poverty that have moved the Occupy movement around the world. Still they are derided as either wasters or dreamers - "St Paul's Mob Wins the Day", the Sun headline proclaimed today.

"Nice" capitalism - now there's a notion if there ever was....

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