The Occupy protest needs to leave St. Paul’s
The story of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest is littered with enough irony to satisfy even the poorest satirist. Including images such as anti-corporate demonstrators with their Starbucks coffees, to the protest itself being staged outside of a cathedral that charges a £14.50 admission fee – because apparently even God is a capitalist.
Of course it’s easy for the media to pick on the seemingly middle-class protesters who disappear back to Hertfordshire each night instead of ‘occupying’ their allegedly empty tents. But we’ve arrived at the point where the coverage of the protests reads more like a mockumentary of the protesters than a serious analysis of frustration that has fueled the Occupy movement.
Of course there’s a serious point here: the furor over using St Paul’s as a place of protest is overshadowing the valid points and ideas that the Occupy movement stands for. By causing havoc at St Paul’s the protestors are damaging their own cause. Instead of front pages covering the corruption in our political system or the evils of corporate greed, we instead get yet another piece criticising the protesters for damaging a national landmark.
The answer to the problem is simple: the protesters must either organise themselves better in order to minimise disruption, or find an alternative site. Otherwise the story will continue to be about the protesters and not about the issues. How can the Occupy movement survive when the tactics of its members are undermining the news coverage of the very things they are protesting against?
Spawned by the Occupy Wall Street protest that has spread to cities across the globe, the OccupyLSX protest was originally planned to be held outside the London Stock Exchange in Paternoster Square. However when permission to protest was refused due to private ownership of the area, the protesters were offered the life-raft of a space outside St Paul’s Cathedral. The backlash of that decision has now lifted the protest to a level of infamy only challenged by the now semi-permanent anti-war protesters that have taken up residence in Parliament Square.
The negative media coverage of the protest isn’t exactly garnering the public support that is vital to a movement like Occupy. Although moving from St Paul’s could be seen as a retreat by some, it is the only way to turn the tide of public and media opinion back in the protestors’ favour. Similar issues were faced by the Occupy Wall Street protesters who, being unable to actually protest in Wall Street itself, took to Zuccotti Park to stage their protest. When the low levels of cleanliness and sanitation in the park almost led to the eviction of the protestors, it was the camaraderie shown as the protestors worked together to clean the park that helped change their image from vagabonds to activists.
It’s that kind of change of opinion that will save the Occupy LSX protest and help the general public understand exactly what the demonstrators are protesting for. The opinions of the protestors are not unlike those of the British public – they are angry at the excess of the banks and an unequal and undemocratic system. Perhaps if the protestors leave St Paul’s and their tent city behind, the public will actually start to hear what they have to say.