We Went Nuts at Occupy London's Bank of Ideas
They wouldn't let us in the War Room.
Late last Thursday night, some Occupy London protesters occupied an unoccupied building in Hackney while screaming "Occupy!" – it's what they do. The building turned out to be owned by UBS, the Swiss bank that is probably also a shop-front for an evil Bond villain who hates democracy (don't they all?). We spent the weekend there. On Friday, we saw:
Legal warnings (roundly ignored)...
Some banners (of a left-wing bent)...
A strange black door leading to another world (it IS possible)...
Food donations (potatoes and jam)...
And this guy (again).
We hadn't been there a minute before scores of police turned up. It wasn't immediately apparent why they were there, but, needless to say, some of them had come armed, just in case the Occupiers had figured out how to turn their fire poi batons into petrol bombs.
They hadn't. They were fucking terrified, as was I a little bit. Even the police seemed a bit scared. I guess they must have caught sight of themselves in the gigantor glass-hive that is the UBS building and realised that a British cop with a handgun looks a bit like a small boy with fake tits.
The fuzz soon fucked off, much to the chagrin of the bankers. Finally, we were allowed access to what the Occupiers had Christened their "Bank of Ideas". Upon entering, we expected to find a shimmering Situationist cathedral for the human imagination. Instead, we found several bright-eyed and bewildered crustolytes who looked pleased with the amount of free bread, Super Noodles and attention they were getting. A much more organised man, who seemed to be their supervisor, shuffled us into a makeshift press conference.
The organised man talked for a while.
Not everyone was concentrating. Frankly, I think some of them wanted to get back to Occupying things.
The press conference was dominated by boring questions about the legality of what they were doing (it was legal) and the significance of the building (it was significant). End of day one.
On Saturday we returned for the Open Day. We didn't turn up for the photo-op, confetti 'n' ribbon-cutting opening you've probably seen in the 'paper. We missed that. What we turned up to was a Geography teacher talking about EMA, a painting of Rosa Parks and some copies of the Financial Times.
From a map pinned on the wall, we could see that the Occupiers had designated rooms called things like "Info", "Tech", "Kitchen" and "The War Room". All of these rooms were sectioned off, but I imagine The War Room was where "no surrender" diktats like this one were hammered into existence:
End of day two.
Undeterred, we returned on Sunday hoping for better. We had reason to be optimistic – conspiracist "funny man" Mark Thomas was doing a stand-up set later that evening, and there would surely be more interesting talks to listen in on. We managed to arrive during what seemed like the Occupy UK General Assembly, with representatives from all the Occupy sites around the country present. It went something a little like this:
- "Do we have consensus?"
- "OK, so it's agreed we will all meet every two months from now."
- "Maybe it should be every month."
- "Yes, I agree it's moving so quickly it should definitely be once a month in case there is a major development."
- "OK, so do we have consensus on once a month?"
- [silent clapping]
- "OK, so that's decided."
- "Erm, maybe we should actually say something? I feel like a lot of the criticism we get is from people saying we're not actually planning any real action, or putting any concrete ideas together."
- "No no no, we've done plenty: we've said we'll all meet again in a month!"
- "Yes, why do we have to listen to the media's 'rules', anyway? This is something new and different!"
- "Look, we have already decided, we're going to say that we've met and that we're going to meet again in a month. We have a consensus."
- "Agreed. Stick with the consensus, we meet in a month."
I may have paraphrased slightly, but you get the gist. The UK Occupy movement seems to have entered its "Organised" stage; following on from its "Initial Excitement"/ "Recruitment" stage. Next will come either its "Marginalised" or "Absorbed by Public Opinion" or "Hijacked" stage. But until that happens, the levels of tedium will maintain record highs. We left the Occupy guys squatted at their Bank of Ideas, nobly trying to keep the legal shit as far away from the fan as possible. Until then, there are rumours that Josie Long will be performing... yay.
WORDS: JOSHUA HADDOW
IMAGES: HENRY LANGSTON, JOSHUA HADDOW