Occupy Democracy Camp Faces Police Harassment

Article @ Morning Star, published 20 October 2014

The Occupy democracy camp at Parliament Square was faced with persistent attacks by the police this weekend after a day of political speeches. 

Protesters — who hope to stay on the site until next Sunday — voiced their anger against the violence used against their peaceful demonstration.

Spokeswoman for the camp Alison Playford said: “The way the state has responded to our protest with this political policing just shows how frightened the elite are of a new movement pushing for radical democratic reform.”

The occupation was set up on Friday and was in full swing when TUC protesters joined in on Saturday.

But by that evening police had closed in, reportedly assaulting two protesters and removing campers’ personal belongings.

Occupiers kept complaining of police harassment into the next day, after banners  — including the “safe spaces” policy chart — were forcefully removed by officers on the square.

“They’ve gradually been chipping away at us,” one of the occupiers told performance artist Mark McGowan in a video which quickly went viral.

The occupation was set up to celebrate the third anniversary of the Occupy movement, but also to challenge the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, which prohibits any camping on the square.

Through Saturday night protesters were told not to lean against their bags as it would constitute camping.

Others have said to have had mattresses pulled from under their bodies and having had to sit on the muddy ground, crouching for heat.

Journalists were also asked to leave the scene and threatened with arrest if they insisted on staying.

During the day the camp had hosted workshops and speeches by artists, politicians and campaigners from across the country.

Among them was comedian Russell Brand, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and LGBT rights activist Peter Tatchell.

Speaking on Saturday, Labour MP John McDonnell said: “When politicians and parties ignore them, people have no other option but to take direct action.

“Occupy Democracy is a way people can have their voice heard.”

Former Lib Dem whistle-blower Donnachadh McCarthy said: “Our political parties have been hijacked by the corporate lobbying classes, our media perverted by a handful of extreme right-wing billionaires, our tax system plundered by the tax-haven elite and our think tanks, schools and universities increasingly corporately manipulated.

“We desperately need a 21st century great democratic reform Act to regain our democracy for the sake of social and political justice and the very future of our planet’s ecosystems.”