Since the 15th of October 2011, international day for protests against economic inequalities, an occupation is taking place around St. Paul’s Cathedral, one main touristic attractions and symbols of the christian culture in London. The occupation was initially meant to take place at Paternoster Square, however, occupiers were stopped from settling there, as the place is a private property (owned by Mitsubishi Estate Co). As the protest couldn’t take place at the designed site (Paternoster Sq), people gathered around St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is “partially owned by St. Paul’s and partially owned by the City of London Corporation, the local governing body” and established a camping site with around 200 tents as well as operational tents, such as media, kitchen, information point and the “tent university”, in which a series of talks, debates, workshops and knowledge exchange are held every day. As well as the occupation of There are many similarities between this occupation, the one taking place at Wall Street and the occupation at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, which proposes the construction of a new model of democracy, based on equality, economic justice, civil rights and peaceful forms of protest.
Since I came back from Italy, on the 15th of October, I had the opportunity to visit the site a few times and was quite impressed by the level of organization and communication of the people involved in this action. I don’t have much involvement with the occupation itself, but I must say that I am quite happy with the things I have been seeing and experiencing there. In addition to the communal kitchen and the outreach department (that includes all sort of media use, from Facebook and twitter to more traditional forms of communication, such as leaflets and newspapers), which I think that plays a vital role in this sorts of political establishments, I found the activities of the Tent University highly constructive and informative. In this space, specialists from different fields are invited to give talks and promote debates regarding a number of issues related to the contemporary society and raised by the organizations involved in the occupation. One of the most remarkable talks, for me, was the one held by Doreen Massey (from Open University), in which she talked about notions of public and private space and the economical forces who drive governments to privatize not just former public spaces, but trusts, companies, services etc. I think that, especially for people involved in socially and/or politically engaged practices, is quite interesting to learn a bit more about the way things are structured and forms of acting in it.
The talk also reminded of a very funny and powerful video from the “Interstellar Anthropology Dept. Production” (aka Everything is OK), in which they go to Canary Wharf (the heart of the financial activities in London, together with the City) and make a performance using a megaphone. It’s hilarious and extremely provocative, a very good example of art and activism…