On Saturday’s international day of action, Occupy presents a geographical exploration of a London you may not see every day
Spring is finally here and the streets are filling with those demanding change. Last Tuesday, thousands were involved in actions across the US, with Occupy Wall Street standing in solidarity with trades unions, students, community and immigrant workers’ groups, forging a new coalition of collective action.
In London, Occupy crossed an item off the “to do” list by spending an afternoon outside the London Stock Exchange, making good on the original call-out for the 15 October. With that out of the way, the serious fun and games can now begin. The 12 and 15 May mark the two international days of action called to mark the one-year anniversary of the indignados taking to the squares of southern Europe, with actions planned as far afield as Rio and Wellington.
In Europe, Spain’s squares will be occupied once more and Occupy Frankfurt plan to “blockupy” the European Central Bank. Two big events are planned in London: the second will be a day of direct action against the lobbying power of finance on 15 May, with events at the British Bankers’ Association and a Dinner for Democracy that, unlike those cosy private suppers at Downing Street, you won’t have to find a five-figure donation to secure a place at.
On 12 May, this Saturday, Occupy London strikes back as we invite you to the centre of the city to Meet the 1%. You have a pressing interest in doing so, however well you think you know them already. Of all the OECD countries, in the UK inequality has increased fastest over the past 30 years. We’ve seen an increasing concentration of wealth while the burden of taxation has shifted down the income scale. Our economy is disproportionately reliant on a financial services industry. We hear over and over again how finance represents 7% of the UK economy, but manufacturing actually provided twice the oft-mentioned 6.8% of total government tax receipts between 2002 and 2008 – without, of course, requiring the kind of bailout we are all obliged to make good on for the foreseeable future.
The problems Occupy draws attention to are systemic and complex. That’s why Meet the 1% will be a day of education, discussion and creative action that explores the links between different actors and shows where each reside: this is a London you may not see every day, but it’s the one you’re paying for. Getting on first-name terms with the 1% is an essential step towards deciding what to do about them – and finding a solution requires that as many people as possible are involved in the discussion.
Meet the 1% starts at 1pm at St Paul’s churchyard – former site of Occupy LSX and our spiritual home – where Tent City University will be holding a special teach-out to explain just why the 1% are so deserving of our attention. Speakers will be talking about the operations of global finance, the international dimensions of the crisis – including what is happening elsewhere in Europe and beyond to mark this international day of action. Needless to say, we’ll also be taking a good look at the impacts of austerity here in the UK.
With the agenda set, we’ll be distributing our map. This identifies 49 separate targets, located all over central London – all implicated, in some way, with the financial crisis. Our targets range from the notorious to the undeservedly obscure; they include lobbyists, hedge funds and organisations profiteering from the creeping privatisation of the NHS. No longer will they be able to hide in the shadows.
Once the teach-out at St Paul’s is concluded, we’ll be heading off to one of those targets where another event is planned – the next of several to take place over the course of the day. We’re not going to reveal in advance the route we’re going to take, but you will be able to check our latest movements via Twitter: by texting “follow @occupymay” to 86444 you will be able to receive all the latest via text message. We can promise some surprises along the way – and you’re very welcome to bring a tent with you, if you feel like it.
Our map for Meet the 1% is an essential tool for finding your way around on Saturday, but we also see it as a resource to move beyond our own programme of events. We’re deliberately leaving plenty of opportunity for those who attend to determine their own course of action on a more autonomous basis. It doesn’t take much to make a statement. When “urban exploration” is classed as “extremist activity” – as the City of London police did last year – walking the streets you live in can itself become a political act.
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