#occupydemocracy: Many Happy Returns! protestors pledge to return monthly until general election; 3rd occupation of Parliament Square this weekend (Dec 20th-21st)

#occupydemocracy: Many Happy Returns! protestors pledge to return monthly until general election; 3rd occupation of Parliament Square this weekend (Dec 20th-21st) 

  • December occupation includes fossil-free nativity play and climate carollers

  • Sleeping bag collection for homeless challenges new legislation

  • Homelessness and poverty crisis is a sign of our broken democracy

#occupydemocracy [1] returns to Parliament Square this weekend (20th-21st December) for the third time since it launched in October to demand Real Democracy Now! The group has pledged to return to the Square every month until the general election in May 2015 to highlight the corporate capture of our democracy and apply pressure for radical reforms so that it starts to work for the 99%.

Occupation programme includes fossil-free nativity play and climate carollers

In a seasonal twist the programme for this occupation includes two new takes on festive favourites: 

  • a fossil-free nativity play performed by Christian climate activists to highlight the growing fossil fuel divestment movement [2] 

  • climate campaigning carollers Shell Out Sounds will be sharing their Carols Not Barrels song sheets with occupiers in support of the cultural boycott of fossil fuel companies BP and Shell [3]

The programme also includes speakers from housing campaigns such as Focus E15 Mums and the Our West Hendon campaign. Green Party Deputy Leader Shahrar Ali will be coming to talk about the ongoing democratic deficit in parliament and Ellie Stamp, award winning performer, is also part of the occupation’s programme.

Sleeping bag collection for the homeless challenges new legislation

As temperatures fall in the run-up to to Christmas and over 500 people sleep rough on London’s streets every night [4] #occupydemocracy will be collecting donations of sleeping bags and blankets to distribute via #OpSafeWinter [5]. This is in defiance of a new law (Police and Social Responsibility Act 2011) that prohibits the possesion of sleeping equipment in front of the Houses of Parliament – a law that led to the arrests of over 30 people at the first #occupydemocracy protest in October. 

“Christmastime is the season of giving,” said Occupy supporter Aisha Dee, “so it will be interesting to see which way the law will fall. Will Boris Johnson instruct the Metropolitan Police to be naughty or nice?”

Rough sleepers have a higher risk of dying on the streets this winter as a result of the government’s austerity programme. One in three council workers say they are less able to provide emergency accommodation in freezing temperatures following budget cuts [6].

Escalating homelessness and poverty is a symptom of our broken democracy

All the main parties support the austerity programme which has led to a dramatic rise in homelessness and poverty in the UK with shocking consequences, including: 

  • the doubling of the number of London’s rough sleepers since the coalition came to power [7]

  • over 65 people a day dying in the winter in the UK as a result of illnesses due to cold homes [8] 

  • 1 in 10 UK households now living in fuel poverty [9]

  • two new foodbanks opening every week to meet the growing demand from the 13 million people living below the poverty line in the UK [10] 

While austerity has failed to cut UK debt – which has increased under the coalition by roughly 50% to £1.5 trillion [11] – it has clearly benefited the super-rich with the number of billionaires in the UK doubling since the financial crash [12]. Rising inequality since the 1980s has cost the UK economy £20 billion in lost economic growth according to the OECD [13]. 

Occupier Matt Bonner said: “All the main political parties are committed to policies that benefit big business and the super-rich while making life much harder for the rest of us. Our politics is broken. None of the main parties represent the interests of the 99% anymore. We have to start taking the influence of corporations and rich individuals out of our politics so democracy can start working for ordinary people.”

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. 

#OccupyDemocracy’s first two occupations of Parliament Square attracted hundreds of people 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 civil society organisations who, in turn represent millions of people who have little voice in our democracy, including: Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut, World Development Movement, War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action and numerous others.

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

[2] http://brightnow.org.uk/news/christian-activists-perform-fossil-free-nativity-outside-methodist-central-hall/

[3] Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for a cultlural boycott of fossil fuel companies: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/10/desmond-tutu-anti-apartheid-style-boycott-fossil-fuel-industry Shell Out Sounds will be joining #occupydemocracy after singing outside the National Gallery to protest Shell’s sponsorship of the Rembrandt exhibition. https://www.facebook.com/events/618448871598325/

[4] http://www.thamesreach.org.uk/news-and-views/homelessness-facts-and-figures/

[5] See https://opsafewinter.org/ for more information

[6] http://streetskitchen.co.uk/?p=1725

[7]http://england.shelter.org.uk/campaigns/why_we_campaign/housing_facts_and_figures/subsection?section=rough_sleeping

[8] http://www.energybillrevolution.org/fuel-poverty/

[9]http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/228m-british-households-now-living-in-fuel-poverty-9532501.html

[10] http://www.trusselltrust.org/stats

[11] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/economics/11117335/Just-how-big-is-Britains-debt-mountain.html

[12] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/britains-billionaires-double-number-credit-4531203

[13] http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/dec/09/revealed-wealth-gap-oecd-report

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