As you may well know, tomorrow (Saturday 12th Nov 2011) there is a peaceful protest planned outside HSBC bank in Exeter, by Occupy Exeter. I have been loosely involved with this group of local protesters from the start, but have been strangely hesitant about getting deeply involved. I can’t tell exactly why, because I am very much in favour of the Occupy movement worldwide, and believe it to be a very worthwhile thing, and Exeter should certainly have it’s own branch. I am fully supportive of it… but that’s different to being a participant.
And then it clicked. I’m just not able to protest against anything – it doesn’t sit right with my brain. And this is true for me, even though The Occupy movement is so different to other protests. It’s pleasingly vague and non-committal about it’s aims goals and messages. The overall vibe seems to be for people to come together who are against what’s going wrong in the world, protest, but also discuss new ideas and solutions. But for me, I can’t reconcile the process of coming up with new solutions, with “protesting” – no matter how loosely the word is used. The ideology of looking towards what is wrong, whilst trying to figure out what is right, doesn’t work for my brain. In the book “Life and How to Survive it”, John Cleese and Dr Robyn Skinner talk about how we should be looking at “well adjusted people” in order to move forward psychologically, rather than what psychotherapy has a tendency to do instead, which is to try and develop by studying those who are the most mentally unstable or maladjusted.
I’m not saying the Occupy movement isn’t positive, and open-minded. It actually seems to me like the most positive form of protest I’ve ever encountered, since it’s just as focused on what it’s FOR as it is on what it’s AGAINST. However, I personally feel much more comfortable doing a demonstration that’s not actually against anything at all, it’s just “In Favour” of things that are brilliant. I wouldn’t even call it public protest – rather “Public Affirmation”.
When the Occupy Exeter demonstration is going on outside HSBC tomorrow, I’ll be standing outside the Co-op Bank, with a sign saying “In Favour”, possibly even handing out sweets. I then plan to process to different locations in Exeter, such as The Real Food Shop, Oxfam etc, spending a little time at each one. I plan to do this in support of the Occupy Exeter movement, as a kind of counterpart to it. Anyone who would like to join me is welcome. Or if you feel more aligned with the Occupy Exeter movement, I’d actively encourage you to get out there tomorrow at noon and join them.
Below is their Press Release:
Search on facebook and twitter for ” Occupy Exeter ”
Local Protesters Occupy Exeter High Street this Saturday
In support of Occupation Protests around the world, it is now Exeter’s turn to be part of the 99%. On Saturday 12th November, at 12noon, Exeter’s very own Occupation will begin with a demonstration on the High Street.
The peaceful protest movement calls itself “Occupy Exeter”, and is opposed to economic inequalities in society. It sees its role as not just one of protest, but as a platform for new ideas and the discussion of ways to move forward.
‘The strength of this movement lies in the broad, diverse spectrum of those whom political and economical irresponsibility has affected,’ remarked group organiser Adam Brummitt. ‘It is by the sheer volume of our number that we hope to influence the current reigning power structures who have invited this public reaction with their negligence“.
“We’re not expressly anti capitalist – we’re just against unethical capitalism, capitalism without values or morals” says member Ghee Bowman. “Our ideas are continuing to evolve. We work in an inclusive way, where everyone’s opinion is welcomed and affirmed.”
Occupy Exeter currently has more than 200 members, and expects many more to turn out on Saturday for the gathering on the High Street. The group welcomes as many members as want to be involved.
First-time protestor Justin believes the time is right for such a protest in Exeter. “I believe that we are at a tipping point. People have been pushed too far by recent events, such as the bank bailouts. I want people to understand that they are not powerless. The true meaning of democracy is that the power should be in the hands of the people.”
Occupy Exeter’s membership comprises individuals from many different backgrounds. As the slogan rightly suggests, 99% of people are affected by Britain’s economic downslide, from working people to students.
“The cuts to the NHS and social care, and recent privatisations of services, are disproportionately affecting those who are disabled or ill or elderly, people who are already struggling,” says member Katie Moudry. “They are also placing a huge burden on doctors, social workers and benefits advisors who are trying to maintain the services with even fewer resources than they had before. The systems have gone into meltdown; it’s chaos. I want accountability for those who have created this situation by irresponsible and unregulated financial investment. People say ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and I want to say ‘You have had the power, now get the responsibility!’”
The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams recently described the huge support for the Occupy movements nationally as “the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment”. Occupy Exeter is not a political party, with a manifesto and a stance on everything. We are many individual voices saying, “No, there must be a better way.”
Come down to the High Street at noon this Saturday and help us to work it out.
Notes for editors
Occupy Exeter is a non-hierarchical movement where leadership is shared, so we may not always have a spokesperson in the way you’re used to.