Capitalism is crisisThe 99 per cent are here to stay. 24 hours after occupying the space in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, Occupy LSX have put in place an impressive infrastructure designed for a long-term occupation.

On top of the 100-odd tents pitched around the church, there is a first aid section, a kitchen, a media centre, toilet facilities, an information point – and even a bookshop (it’s located in front of Starbucks and called “Starbooks”).

A day earlier, it was not clear whether the occupation would be successful at all. There was a massive police presence, and the 3-5,000 participants were repeatedly kettled or barred from entering the square and joining the occupation. Things turned ugly later in the evening, when police dogs were brought out and batton-weilding officers forcefully cleared the steps of the cathedral. However, the protesters were not moved from the square, and around 250 people spent the night in their tents.

On Sunday morning, Canon Giles Fraser of St Paul’s came out before the service, to express his support for the occupiers’ right to peaceful protest, saying that he’d asked the police to leave.

Relations with the police have since been positive, says one of the numerous facilitators, all of whom are very busy and hardly have time to speak. “They have been really friendly, coming over to chat to us, and some of them seem really interested in what is going on.” However on Sunday evening the police removed the portaloos which had been set up, refusing to return them, and began erecting a metal fence to allow access to the Stock Exchange for bankers.

The mood among the occupiers is overwhelmingly positive. But they are short of a couple of things: “Groundmats would be good”, says one young protester, “It was a bit cold last night. But also food, water – the general occupying necessities.” Like many others, he will go home tonight because he has to work during the week, but he will definitely be back as soon as possible – definitely next weekend. And how long are they staying? “As long as it takes, man”. What “it” is, however, is a more difficult question.

The issues at the heart of the occupation are pretty clear – a glance at the countless plackards and banners is enough to get a general picture: “Capitalism is Crisis”; “We are the 99%”; “Real Democracy Now!”. But how to achieve the aim of more democracy and how to take the occupation forward is a more difficult question.

To discuss this issue, and to decide what the occupation wants to achieve – what the demands and actions should be – people organised themselves in working groups on Sunday afternoon and reported back to the general assembly. Some demands related directly to the issue of banking and the financial crisis – tax the rich, crack-down on tax evasion, caps on bonuses, an end to tax havens. Then there was a call for the support of the public sector and the welfare state, and calls to oppose the privatisation of the NHS.

Some speakers called for an escalation of direct action, such as occupations of university campuses and teach-ins, but they are also aware that they need to reach out to the wider public in order to pull people in and get them on their side. As one speaker said, rhetoric is not the problem: the occupation needs to tap into the already existing anger of the public and get them on its side.

Importantly, there was a clear sense of the need to link up to the wider struggle – support the pensions strike on 30 November and for the student demo on 9 November met with rounds of applause, woops and cheers.

The first two days have been successful, but the momentum needs to be kept up – as Noam Chomsky said ahead of the occupation, the way to scare the people in power is sustained pressure that keeps on building.

Peter Stauber

Peter Stäuber is a freelance journalist and translator. He writes for English and German language publications and is a member of the NUJ.

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