The Occupy London camp at Finsbury Square is being evicted. I'm desperately looking for a livestream of it from a porch in Philly, chain-smoking cigarettes, and keeping updated through the Twitter feed of Jules Mattsson. It feels all wrong. I was one of a small group who planned and carried out the taking of Finsbury. In the first couple weeks of the occupation of St Paul's when the energy was still raw and powerful. Long before the long, cold winter turned idealist revolutionaries into hardened souls.
Later I was one of those arguing to end the occupation of Finsbury. It had been overrun with the vulnerable, those without a home, people struggling with alcoholism and abuse. It was no longer a "political" action. I was wrong though. Finsbury was a logical result of the Con Dem coalitions dismantling of Britain. It couldn't have been more political.
We were incapable of helping the vulnerable people effectively, but Finsbury was all that many of them had. The mess that became of Finsbury wasn't a failure of Occupy, but of the state; of Cameron and Clegg's ideological austerity. When these people came, they were not turned away. They were welcomed in from a city and state that tried to hide them in ally's, desperate to show the world a shiny façade for the Jubilee and the Olympics.
The state is attempting to prop up the façade by criminalizing dissent: outlawing protest and banning activists. Tents are banned. Anti-Social Behavior Orders (ASBOs,) originally designed to prevent criminal mischief, are now handed out to activists to keep them from the City and the games. Those applying for benefits are now asked if they plan to protest in the future. "Pre-crime," a phrase taken directly from the writings of Philip K. Dick (though those crediting it to Orwell would be forgiven) is now a justification by the state to arrest activists organising against the cuts. And the sick irony is, at the opening ceremony of this summer's Olympics, the state will celebrate the direct action taken against it by the Suffragettes all those years ago.
But laws can't save the state. The cuts to the housing allowance will put nearly 600 families in the streets in Croydon alone. The government's "workfare" program forces those on jobseekers allowance (a measly £60 a week) to work 30 hours or more a week free for corporations like Tesco. It doesn't take an economics degree to realise job growth will be non-existent when the minimum wage is "free." Community centres and libraries are being demolished. Pensions people have paid into their entire lives are being gutted. Even the police are facing massive cuts and the theft of their pension. It's always a bad idea to screw over those you're counting on to silence the people. It wasn't too long ago the police were counted on to save Britain from the riots. What happens when they join in?
Today, no doubt, the Daily Mail, Evening Standard, and other right wing rags will gleefully print their prepared smear pieces on the mess of Finsbury Square. They may even proudly proclaim the death of Occupy. And maybe they're right. But Finsbury Square wasn't the result of a failure of Occupy. Finsbury Square was a result of the failure of Cameron's Britain.
And whether or not they spring up in the name of Occupy, as long as the Con Dems continue to destroy the welfare state built on the sacrifices of a world war, while handing over the treasury to the banks that caused the crisis, there will be many more Finsbury Squares in London and across the UK.
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