The carnival is over.
Occupy's St Paul's camp is no more. It was evicted in the early hours of 28 February - and now that it has gone, it's so much easier to see the value to Occupy of the camp and its location. They had an audience. Tourists all day, every day and city workers on weekdays. They were right there, on the pavement, in your face. There was an energy in the camp - there was always something going on. It was often awash with media and photographers.
Fluttering in the breeze, a last stand is made by a piece of paper. Conflicting embellishments show the deep divisions - and hidden support - that makes up the relationship between Occupy and the establishment.
On Saturday 4 March, I went to Finsbury Square in the City, hoping to see and interview some of the people I had come to know a little at St Paul's and for sure, there were several familiar faces. But many of the people I was hoping would be there, weren't.
A previous visit to Finsbury square was very pleasant. I found the atmosphere to be very laid back, harmonious and even contented, despite the weather - it was freezing. I sat around a fire with a crazy (and thoroughly amusing) Irishman called Leo, a couple of, as Leo put it, "Feckin' Pauls", an artist called Ash and a quiet, soft-spoken eating machine named Joseph. There were other people too - the most memorable of who was an older fellow who calls himself Tom Bombadil, a retired teacher.
Well, now that fire is gone. "We had to do away with it explained Leo. With all these feckin' nutters here now, it wouldn't take long before someone sets a tent on fire, so no more feckin' fire". Also seemingly extinguished is the sense of harmony, of positivity. I spoke to several people and they were all grumbling about others in the camp. The St Paul's lot - those who moved to Finsbury are seen as Johnny-come-latelies, having swollen the camp's numbers considerably. But there has also been a marked increase in the number of drug addicts and foreign homeless people who have little interest in activism. Thefts are on the rise - gas cylinders, sleeping bags, coats, shoes, cash... and there is an underlying current of resentment aimed by all sorts of people at all sorts of targets. As I saw it, Occupy London's Finsbury Square camp is not a happy place.
It was against this background that I spoke to Dom, a magnificently attired eccentric who for the last few years has lived outside the system. I first encountered Dom the previous week, the last Sunday of the St Paul's camp. He was engaged in a fairly heated 'debate' with a fellow Occupy activist; fraud, government spies, agent provocateurs, and a host of other dark conspiracies were bouncing back between the two of them. All the while, Dom was filming his discussion on a little video camera. He puts his videos up on YouTube.
Dom filming, as he often does, his conversations.
As is often the case, I couldn't help but like the man. He is a polite, highly intelligent, articulate and engaging person with a genuine passion for his beliefs. He's not one of the many who parrot the well worn anti-establishmanet mantras. He's thought for himself and many of his ideas swim against the main current of Occupy whilst others appear, to me at least, to be the very essence of what the movement is about. Within the community he's Marmite. Loved and disliked in equal measure.
Trodden on and coated in mud, Dom found the hat a year or two back and set about cleaning it up with a toothpick, adding found bits and pieces over time. It, like the man himself, holds an ecclectic collection of items and ideas he has discovered or created, found to be attractive and has decided to keep.
First Name: "Commonly Known as Dom"
How long have you been in the camp? I first visited St Paul's four days into their process.
What were you doing before you joined the Occupy movement? I was trying to live outside the system of control. I was living in the wild in the hills of Wales. I came here to Babylon from nature. Three years ago I was doing a law degree, but left that. It was the system and I didn't want to be part of it.
Are you a full time resident in the camp? No. I'm not resident of anywhere I park my body. I live outside the system of control, outside of the others' world.
Do you have a specialist role in the camp? I speak my truth.
What compelled you to become an Occupier? Staying in the 'now' brought me here.
How will you as an individual make a difference? By sharing my knowledge, because knowledge has value and [through knowledge] becoming rich in friends.
Who is your Enemy Number One? The Tavistock Institute and Common Purpose.
Who do you admire? Everyone. Everyone has something that makes them special.
Why? We can all learn from each other. If only we could all see each other as teachers.
What is the best part of being in Occupy? To expose Occupy for what it is. Exposing the orchestration.
What is the worst part? Occupy is a leaderless movement but there is a hidden hierarchy trying to control others. It is like a [government] social experiment.
Is Occypy making a noticeable difference? No. It is not here for that. It's a social manipulation experiment.
Why? It has Common Purpose facilitators and Tavistock Institute workshops.
Anything else? The donation money was going the Climate Camp. The legal team, which claims to represent all of us, is self appointed. In fact all the leadership is self appointed.