Yesterday evening at 6pm, I returned to Occupy Tarpaulin Square — Parliament Square — along with many others for a weekend of pro-democracy protests and speeches.
I am an accidental occupier.
On Saturday October 18, as a former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats who was drummed out of the party for whistleblowing on corporate lobbying corruption, I was invited to speak at the launch rally of the nine-day Occupy Democracy event in Parliament Square.
Green Party chair Natalie Bennett, respected Labour MP John McDonnell and Russell Brand were the other speakers. After the rally, I hung around chatting with the peaceful protesters who numbered about 60 people, sitting on a large blue tarpaulin.
Suddenly at about 6pm, we were surrounded by riot police and kettled. The outer boundary of the square was sealed off with another cordon of police and outside them the entire square was blockaded with nose-to-nose police vans.
We were told no press were being allowed into the square to witness the brutal removal of the protesters from the tarpaulin.
Seemingly sitting on or even the possession of tarpaulin is now a major national security threat in Britain but not in Hong Kong. Thus, we renamed the square Tarpaulin Square, due to the absence of a genuinely democratic Parliament in Westminster.
Inside the kettle, we remained totally non-violent as London Mayor Boris Johnson’s private security firm AOS instructed the police to physically remove and arrest people for sitting on the tarpaulin.
Having experienced his brutal suppression of this protest, I felt a line had been crossed for me.
I would now stay with the occupiers and risk arrest for the right to protest in front of our corrupted Parliament.
During the week that followed, Johnson’s suppression operation launched three major kettling actions on the peaceful seated protesters over the first four days and made arrest after arrest. These were clearly aimed to suppressing our free speech.
AOS guards demanded that the police arrest people for a bizarre list of supposed offences, including holding a banner, playing an acoustic guitar, lying on an empty pizza box, having their legs covered in a plastic bag in the pouring rain and so on.
I myself was arrested on the Tuesday morning along with Green Party baroness Jenny Jones because I had a folded tarpaulin under my arm.
Despite the continual harassment, Occupy amazingly managed to maintain the programme of pro-democracy talks that had been planned for the entire nine-day protest.
It also held a democratic general assembly each day, discussing how Britain’s democracy has been corrupted by corporate money and the billionaire media.
On the final day a list of pro-democracy demands was adopted by the protesters. These included:
Democracy Before Profit
- Reform of party funding and corporate lobbying with full transparency
- Introduction of proportional representation
- Hold a citizen-led constitutional convention for real democracy
- Democratic reform to break the billionaire media stranglehold
People Before Profit
- No privatisation of public services, including NHS, schools, police and public transport
- Close down tax havens
- No TTIP, CETA and TISA trade deals
- Abolish tuition fees
- Living wage for all
Environment Before Profit
- Green New Deal including one million climate jobs
- Ban fracking and invest in renewable energy
- Create a programme of green social housing.
I was astonished at the level of agreement on these demands from a group of protesters with a wide range of backgrounds and political beliefs.
But while the courage displayed by these young and older peaceful campaigners day after day was inspiring, one fact chilled me to the bone.
This was the media blackout of the extraordinary events unfolding in front of Parliament.
Despite the protest being about 500 metres from the main broadcasters’ Westminster headquarters on Millbank, hardly a single camera crew other than some courageous IndyMedia journalists covered the event.
It is sadly understandable that the billionaires’ Daily Mail and The Sun were not there, but why was it ignored by The Guardian and the BBC during the very week that they were giving vast coverage to the Hong Kong protests?
None of them covered David Cameron’s hypocrisy in demanding that the regime in Hong Kong respect the protesters’ right to protest, while his colleague Johnson was simultaneously vigorously suppressing free speech in front of his own former Mother of Parliaments.
Johnson also installed Harris security fencing around Tarpaulin Square to prevent the grass being used for peaceful protests. This is a portent of what else would happen to free speech under a Johnson/Murdoch premiership.
This media blackout confirms the thesis in my book The Prostitute State that the top priority for all British progressive and ecological movements should be to end the stranglehold the billionaire media barons have on our democracy.
Until this happens, Britain’s corrupted governance will continue to be hijacked for the interests of the 1 per cent, with the resultant ecological devastation and social injustice that arises from this.
I will be holding a workshop tomorrow afternoon at Occupy Democracy to discuss the prostituted media and brainstorm about what we collectively can do about it, such as an Occupy Rupert Murdoch event.
For the full programme of other pro-democracy free events, speeches and workshops at Occupy Democracy this weekend, check out the website occupydemocracy.org.uk. Please be there.
Nearly 1,000 people have already signed up to come. Britain’s democracy urgently needs to be reclaimed from the 1 per cent for the 100 per cent.
Facebook Event Page: Occupy Democracy Return to Parliament Square. Twitter: #TarpaulinRevolution #OccupyDemocracy
Donnachadh McCarthy is a former deputy chair of the Liberal Democrats. His book The Prostitute State — How Britain’s Democracy Has Been Bought is available in print and e-book format from www.theprostitutestate.org.uk
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