#OccupyDemocracy to re-occupy Parliament Square 20-21 December; invites pro-democracy supporters to get involved

#OccupyDemocracy to re-occupy Parliament Square 20-21 December; invites pro-democracy supporters to get involved

  • Following an eventful weekend #occupydemocracy ends occupation of Parliament Square peacefully
  • Announces intention to return to Parliament Square 20-21 December
  • Calls for solidarity actions between now and then to highlight the democratic deficit
  • Quotes from the weekend’s speakers including Natalie Bennett and Craig Murray

Supporters of #occupydemocracy [1] have agreed to return to Parliament Square for a renewed occupation over the weekend of 20-21 December, to continue to highlight the corruption of our democracy by corporate interests. The move comes as the second monthly occupation of Parliament Square ended peacefully last night following a final General Assembly to decide next steps.

The group also agreed to issue a call encouraging solidarity actions and events over the next month to highlight the issue of the democratic deficit, both in London and around the UK.

In a weekend that has seen #CameronMustGo trending continually on twitter, despite rain, obstruction and harrassment by the police, a determined group of occupiers stayed the course holding discussions and talks from Friday until Sunday afternoon. Online support poured in with many people reminding those present that they were representing thousands of others unable to physically attend but who are equally appalled at the disintegration of our Parliamentary Democracy, from the ‘left’ to the ‘right’.

Mandela, Churchill and Lincoln behind bars; Democracy excluded from Parliament Square

#occupydemocracy understands that it is Mayor Boris Johnson, as head of the Greater London Authority (GLA),  who keeps increasing the size of the fenced off area around Parliament Square. This now includes the statues of Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill – inaccessible to the public – as well as the area of grass in the centre.

Johnson is apparently oblivious to the profound symbolism of putting Nelson Mandela back behind bars and excluding peaceful pro-democracy protestors from having access to the Square. In extraordinary scenes on Saturday night, police arrested former Liberal Democrat Deputy Chair and author of ‘The Prostitute State’, Donnachadh McCarthy [2], for placing a “Free Nelson Mandela” sign on the caged statue.

From the Supreme Court to the Houses of Parliament: Real Democracy Now!

Over the course of the weekend, #occupydemocracy demonstrators were denied access to the square by the extensive fencing, constantly guarded by a substantial police presence. At the end of Friday (21 November) night occupiers settled in front of the Supreme Court at the rear of Parliament Square, where they maintained a presence over two nights in the cold and rain in defence of democracy. At 3pm today (Sunday 23 November), the protest site moved to the pavement in front of the Houses of Parliament after a protestor locked himself around the neck with a bicycle D-lock to the railings and occupiers unfurled a 20 metre banner that read ‘Real Democracy Now!’

Locked on for democracy

#occupydemocracy supporter Arran released himself after five hours due to concerns about swelling that was occurring around his neck. It was a decision he made after discussion with the  rest of those present who were prepared to support him throughout the night. He received great cheers when he released himself shortly after 8pm. He was taken to St Thomas’ Hospital but did not require medical attention.

Arran explained what drove him to take this action: “The supression of my free speech during #occupydemocracy in October was so extreme I felt this was the only way to get my voice heard.” Arran was arrested during the previous occupation of Parliament Square in October for sitting on a piece of tarpaulin.

Donnachadh McCarthy, who gave a speech at #occupydemocracy earlier today, said: “Arran’s heroic gesture is in the proud democratic tradition of the suffragettes – our democracy has been so damaged by corporate hijacking that only such mass peaceful direct action can create a democracy that works on behalf of all the people, and not just the 1%.”

Quotes from other speakers at #occupydemocracy this weekend

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “Politics is changing and breaking wide open. That gives us enormous opportunities. Westminster hasn’t fundamentally changed in a hundred years. The last big change was women getting the vote in 1918.  It’s too late to tinker with things. The fact is the whole system is broken. What we need to do is start again, have a peoples’ constitutional convention.”

Dr Lucy Reynolds, research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine,  spoke about the scandal of NHS privatisation taking place under our noses without any public mandate and from which many parliamentarians stand to benefit personally [3]. She said: “A sad day has come to pass when people feel they have to lock on outside Parliment to get their voices heard. An NHS protester previously did that. She was an 81 year old former teacher who had herself chained to railings to protest the theft of the NHS. The police cut her free and carried her away. Russian TV reported, but British outlets didn’t see fit to cover the story – the NHS is being privatised.”

Former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray said: “This country is teetering out of control. The level of poverty and desperation among many many people is going higher and higher […] and the astonishing wealth of the elite is growing greater and greater. That is not a sustainable position. We are now at the stage that change in society is going to come in a revolutionary way. Obviously I would like that to be peaceful but I wouldn’t like to predict what is going to happen.”

Notes for editors:

[1] #OccupyDemocracy (https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/) was formed in March as a working group of Occupy London (http://occupylondon.org.uk/)  to build a social movement for genuine democracy that is free from  corporate influence. Callout for the current occupation, over the  weekend of 21-23 November, is available at: https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/11/17/6pm-this-friday-occupydemocracy-to-re-occupy-parliament-square/. The full programme of events for this occupation can be found at https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/11/18/programme-for-re-occupation-of-parliament-square-21-23rd-nov-2014/.

#OccupyDemocracy’s first occupation of Parliament Square, 17-26  October 2014, attracted hundreds of people over the course of nine days –  including prominent figures such as Russell Brand, Ken Loach, Vivienne  Westwood and Jolyon Rubinstein; politicians such as Caroline Lucas MP,  John McDonnell MP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Baroness Jenny  Jones and Michael Meacher MP; and representatives of dozens of  progressive civil society organisations who, in turn represent millions  of people, yet have little voice in our democracy.

Groups who sent speakers to to the first occupation in October  included: Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut, World Development Movement,  War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against the Cuts,  Defend the Right to Protest, Stop the War, OurNHS, Stroud Against the  Cuts, New Economics Foundation, Robin Hood Tax, Green New Deal Group,  Platform, Save Lewisham Hospital and One Million Climate Jobs.

Working by consensus decision making, #occupydemocracy has a safer spaces policy and is dedicated to non-violence.

At the end of its first occupation in October #occupydemocracy agreed as set of provisional demands: https://occupydemocracy.org.uk/2014/10/27/occupydemocracy-ends-occupation-agrees-to-re-occupy-parliament-sq-in-november-present-demands-to-mps-at-2pm-today/

[2]  Donnachadh McCarthy is the whistleblowing former Deputy Chair of the Liberal Democrats, author of the new book The Prostitute State and an Occupy supporter. You can read more about Donnachadh at http://www.theprostitutestate.co.uk/. Donnachadh has also written an article for the Morning Star about how he became an “Accidental Occupier”: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-92c1-Accidental-occupier

[3] According to research by Social Investigations 225 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections and all were able to vote on the Health and Social Care bill (now Act), despite having a prejudicial interest, which would not have been allowed at local council level. http://socialinvestigations.blogspot.co.uk/p/key-facts-of-lords-and-mps-connections.html

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