General Assembly 24th of January 2013
Westminster Meeting House 7pm
Facilitators Mark and Vica
Minutes Mark, Tina
7:15pm – Welcome, Explain Agenda, Demonstrate Hand signals
7:30pm – 99% Against Coalition
7:45pm – DPAC proposal, discussion. Possible action points.
9:00pm – Any other Business / Shout outs
9:30pm – End
Click Here For - Livestream
Summary and Conclusions (Detailed minutes below)
The assembly was attended by roughly fifty people. There were two live streamers and a video recording by Inka. More detailed minutes provided at the end (after livestream sections), including some fact-checking and related links.
The “99% Against the Coalition” is a nationwide protest being organised in May. The protest is against austerity, the privatisation of the NHS, the Bedroom Tax and welfare cuts. The discussion aimed to inform the assembly and get some initial feedback about Occupy London’s possible involvement/support. Questions were raised about the nature and aims of the protest. Some people felt that more information was needed. Some advocated acting solidarity with the organisers to support their event. Others proposed backing the protest completely on the grounds that no one owns Occupy and that we should back people’s efforts to protest.
After a short discussion the assembly advocated another assembly in the near future be arranged with attendance from the organisers to discuss in greater depth Occupy London’s involvement in the demo.
The discussion began with a member of Disabled People Against Cuts [DPAC] giving a brief summary of the plight facing disabled people in the UK. The summary included explanations of the [now over] 10,000 disabled people who have died within six weeks of being put on the governments “Work Capabilities Assessment”. Also the level of hate crime aimed at disabled people has rising by 25% in the last year due to demonisation in the media.
DPAC’s proposal was a joint action with Occupy London, Christianity Uncut and other groups to challenge the government’s assault on disabled people and the cuts in general by highlighting the human tragedy befalling disabled people. The action is a mass memorial march and rally. Beginning in Trafalgar Square and ending in Parliament Square. Some people felt that tactics involving mass arrest would be appropriate considering the gravity of the situation. Questions where raised about reading the names of the victims.
The members of DPAC expressed their wish to make the demonstration a safe and inclusive space for disabled people to make their voices heard. They felt, as did others, that mass arrests where not a necessary feature of this action. The action will also be attended by grieving friends and relatives of the 10,000 deceased. DPAC felt that their need to grieve with dignity was of the highest importance. DPAC also made it clear that there would only be a naming of victims if the specific families of those victims expressed a firm desire for this to occur. It was revealed that many people attending would be grieving not only the loss of several loved ones but that their deaths often involved issues of great sensitivity and prejudice such as suicide. Therefore the action could only take place if these issues where handled with extreme care and consideration. DPAC also offered their idea pertaining to Occupy’s specific involvement on the day which was to play a “Buddy Support” role for the disabled attendees. This would necessitate a series of trainings on buddying with disabled people on protests.
After a long and in some moments very emotional discussion it was clearly stated and agreed about the full and committed support for the action by the assembly. Three elements of the discussion where given overwhelming support.
1- To include Veterans and the issues they face into the DPAC action.
2- For Occupy London to officially endorse and support the DPAC action.
3 – Given the delicacy of the action the assembly entrusted the group organising it to make the decisions that they found more appropriate. This would be accompanied with regular feedback to Occupy London.
At the end of the discussion consensus was reached for Occupy London to officially endorse and support the action by DPAC and Christianity Uncut.
At the end there where a number of shout outs including feedback from Janie about the rights to protest which she will be emailing around in due course.
Friday 25th January 2013
Location: Friends House, 52 St Martin’s Lane
Consensus reached on Occupy London endorsement of DPAC May/June memorial action.
Mark: Two main proposals on the agenda. First, the 99% against the coalition proposal. Second, DPAC’s proposal for an action in May/June.
The first came from a youth worker and involves a call to protest against austerity and this government on May 4th. It hits all the right themes and is a bottom-up action. A week ago it had 400 people on Facebook, now it’s at 1200. There are mirror protests to be set up in Cardiff and Glasgow, and a lot of discussions of additional actions, such as occupying council buildings the day before. The question is, in what ways can we support it?
Sara: I’m confused that another group are asking for support. Let’s not make a vote before someone gets here to explain this some more. We don’t really know what we’re discussing.
Janie: It’s vague. Let’s not become rent-a-mob, an alliance to various groups.
John: I’m initially supportive but I share Sara’s concerns. We’ve missed out, had not really large-scale protest since 15th October. I would appeal to everyone to think big, to believe that we can mobilise tens of thousands of people instead of 50. Have this kind of frame in mind.
Ross: I would like to see Camden’s council finance department targeted, occupied. In January, they sent out letters to users asking them to pay 50-60 pounds per week. I want your help in publicising what’s going on. Camden council is a Labour council but hasn’t been standing up for people.
: We’ve been marginalised as anti-capitalists but the anti-capitalists are those in government. I don’t like splitting groups up. Let’s put a mechanism in action, a Facebook page so people can discuss what to do, maybe set up their own little actions.
Phoenix: Good idea, needs more information. It’s a key time for organising, for building a head of steam. Focus on next targets for cuts. Have another big space out in the open.
Tammy: Can’t we support it as a solidarity action, in solidarity with. Also hospitals, e.g. Lewisham.
Natalia: We need to think national/international as a movement. It doesn’t mean we’ll be uniting with them forever.
Arun: I’m more than happy to get involved. Occupy doesn’t belong to us, let’s not hold it to ourselves so much. We should be celebrating actions like this.
David: Seconding Arun. I don’t think we should be taking a “not-invented-here” attitude. They’re talking our language. Sometimes we need to take risks and help people.
Steve: We’ve relaxed our title. It’s important that we mix and unify but without a title. We haven’t yet managed to bring people in, not generally speaking. We haven’t managed to unify the people. If we use “Occupy” all the time, we’re very identifiable, very scapegoatable, very subject to divide-and-rule. Sometimes it’s useful to have no title at all.
: In the UK, we were not the inventors of the 99% thing. Scientists did a lot of work on substantiating this 99%. The push comes a lot from the good people in America. At St Paul’s we had six different anarchist groups, Marxists, we’ve always been a broad church.
: Occupy is about individuals engaging with other individuals.
Inka: Occupy should stay with the financial angle.
——————————— end of discussion on item #1 ————————————-
Ian: I was at St Paul’s for the first two months of the camp. Josie will give some context on the DPAC action. Along with Paula, she was one of the activists who locked on inside St Paul’s.
Josie: I joined the action at St Paul’s because I was desperate really. I have always felt safe in this country until in my hometown a stranger came up to me and said, you fucking scrounging parasite. I’ve also been physically assaulted recently. That’s how I became politically aware, that’s when I discovered Occupy.
Disabled people feel attacked by all sides, by the press, by ministers. Iain Duncan Smith actually called us “festering”. He’s telling me that I’m an infection, a sore full of puss. They’ve been hateful stories in the media. There’s been a 25% increase in disability hate-crime in one year alone. The ATOS-repeated assessments make us feel prosecuted, frightened, alone. There’s a great need for this action to show support, unity and compassion.
The aims are to have a large gathering of the disabled community and their supporters. Help people know that they’re, we’re not isolated, alone and shamed. That it’s wrong to demonise and criminalise disabled people.
Ten thousand people have died within 6 weeks of receiving Work Capability Assessments [nb: these are described as "off-flows" - see Table 1]. Around 7000 were assessed to be able to work. They died shortly thereafter. These numbers might actually be higher because when benefits are stopped, there is no follow-up.
Work Capability Assessments are biased against people who will not be capable to appeal. We know this process is faulty because there’s a very high success rate when people appeal the decision. But 51% of disabled people going through this process become suicidal.
The cuts have a cumulative effect. The bedroom tax, coming into effect in April, means that people will have to move house if they have a spare room. There are cuts in child benefits, a rise in council tax.
Two years ago, Cameron pledged that the most seriously disabled would be protected. Then he cut the independent living fund [nb: the ILF is set to be abolished after 2015], the independent assistant allowance that provided assistance to the severely disabled. These people are now being hit 19 times more than anybody else in this country.
Ian: It’s the elephant in the room. The public at large doesn’t know about it. Buddies, people pushing the wheelchair. How to raise awareness. Memorial for the 10k. May or June. Our invitation to you is, join in and be good buddies. The whole community is affected by this issue. This has to change. We want to show we’re in solidarity.
Ian: 20th March there is a specific action around budget day (DPAC). The memorial is part of a sequence of events. Idea is to bring together people who have lost loved ones, offer them a platform, maybe at Trafalgar square, give them a voice. We’re looking for mass mobilisation of people. Will then proceed in silence to Parliament square. We need to provide assistance to people there on the day. Lay ten thousand white poppies to remember each and every person that has been killed.
Allie: There’s a question as to where the memorial part will happen. Legalities around doing things around Parliament square. Action is all public. There is a DA element but it’s very inclusive in working with people outside the activist community. My mum and vicars in Surrey can’t wait to take part. We want tens of thousands of people. We should not be doing a genocide on disabled people. We want to create a huge amount of embarrassment for the government. The whole country is going to become more and more enraged. This action will encapsulate this.
Ian: One more thing before opening this out. Establishment figures saying something after pressure. We’ve so little of that. The new Dean of St Paul’s has offered to speak on that platform and condemn the cuts. Great that we got the bastard out of St Paul’s.
Josie: We want this to be a multi-faith thing.
: Tremendous idea for creating opportunities but we have to be realistic about shaming the government. Government is doing this on purpose. It’s telling us we have to be in competition with each other.
: I have secondary cancer. Want to say that there’s a big correlation between your physical well-being and your mental health. People like this are very vulnerable. I’m also angry about carers, how you’re treated to 50 pounds a week, less than a fit unemployed person, and yet you’re on call 24/7. I would like to propose that Occupy officially supports this demo.
Mel: This is the kind of action we need to be drawing attention to. Be willing to get arrested. This will send a powerful message. We need a new civil rights movement. We need to stop taking it and take a stand.
Ian: I totally get the visual of being arrested and I support that. But there are people at different levels of confidence. Success isn’t always about getting arrested. DPAC are planning hardcore actions. Cardboard city on 20th March.
Josie: Some disabled people are very frail and fragile. This is a remembrance ceremony. We want it to be as dignified as possible. There will be families there.
Steve: If it’s safe and squeaky clean… There has to be a bit of abrasiveness. The most famous memorial statue in London is the statue of the unknown soldier. If we headed and ended at the memorial of unknown soldier… Abrasive intersection of military interests (extremely well supported) and vulnerable members of society.
: Tie links up with ex-servicemen. Get them out there in their uniforms etc. Every type of protest is valid in the right context.
Janie: UN protesting. We are back in the room. We seem to be forgetting how big Occupy is in peoples’ psyche.
Josie: At the [protest outside the] Department of works and pensions, we had people charged while in wheelchairs. The TSG attacked disabled people, throwing them out of their wheelchair. One was hospitalised.
I want to be absolutely sure people won’t be kettled.
Kris: The soldiers idea is a fantastic idea but you won’t fit 10k people. 5th November we had 2,500 people. Whitehall was full. You can’t fit 10k in Trafalgar and Whitehall. Have soldiers at the centre.
Peter D: For an action to be effective, it has to connect with wider community. 10k people affected by assessments.
Allie: Yes, messaging needs to be pounded out in crystal clear detail.
Ross: Have this out on 4th May. People treated like cash-cows, extorted. Build in an alternative drop-in system, for example churches. A woman in Northumberland came to me and said she had to pay 48 pounds a day to attend a day centre for disabled. We need [to develop/highlight] an alternative system of care as part of this campaign.
: Is there a way we can honour each one, for example name them, make them real. We would need to get permission from every single family.
Allie: You have to be so careful. There are some very serious issues connected to mental health, suicides etc.
Inka: Are we sure it’s 10k? It’s quite an unbelievable number. Second point. Come up with an Occupy statement by the economics working group. To avoid becoming rent-a-mob and connecting all the horrors happening in this country.
Paula: You hear about the effects on some places, like Lewisham but not about others. In Bromley, we’ve been decimated to bits. About the numbers, in July 2012 we submitted an FOI (freedom of information) request regarding incapacity benefits. For the period covering January 2011 to November 2011, 10600 deaths were reported of which 7500 were in a support work-related group. That’s 73 people per week. We don’t have the figures for last year. We’ve put in another FOI request. Should come through in March.
Ian: These are official figures that can’t be dismissed by the media. Hard data. We’ll put them up on the website.
Paula: A friend of mine was found fit for work in June. She had learning difficulties. She found out Tuesday morning. Tuesday evening, she took her life. Her mother followed. 14th October her father took his own life; it was his daughter’s birthday. This is how WCA is affecting people. Sixteen people I’ve lost who were friends of mine. People are being hounded by the media who want person stories. These are people who have lost loved ones, who are grieving. We have to be very sensitive about how we deal with this. We are you. You are us. Anyone can become sick and disabled through no fault of their own. 1 in 4 people go to their GP with a mental health problem. It’s the most common problem GPs face.
Vica: Very delicate action. I’d like to ask for a temperature check that we entrust the organisers to make the best decision possible and provide us with regular feedback.
George: Middle way. Mass arrest is very different from what we do normally. Few arrests play into the narrative of a few troublemakers. We can have a separate element afterwards. read out first names only. Commit to a visual, say outside Downing street.
: These are very powerful numbers. Have the statistics visible.
Ian: Real stories will be told. But who will talk, this is very much up to the families.
Tammy: How do you propose to get in touch with every one of those 10k families?
Ian: The basic invitation is doing something very solemnly in silence. Walking to Parliament square. This is a safe space but we’re not a dictatorship. We’re not going to stop people getting arrested.
Janie: Technical point. You don’t have to be doing anything illegal to get arrested. They will arrest you if they want to. You don’t have to be breaking the law.
Ruth: We’re underestimating the power of what can be achieved without arrests. The government have got a lot of public opinion with them. Why they’ve got away with all they have? They’re on a knife edge. This could really help tip things over, put austerity under a different light. People have a very different idea of what economics and finance is. Also of Occupy. On the specifics for the day. Silence can be ok for a while but otherwise problematic. Have people considered music/singing or mic-check with some basic messages? That could be very strong, for example have some names repeated. Also, laying photos on cenotaph. There are comparable genocides, for example over 7k by fuel poverty. You don’t necessarily want to mix it but it’s something you may want to keep in mind.
John: We shouldn’t be telling DPAC what their tactics and message is. But we should issue an Occupy statement supporting this. Why isn’t there any resistance? They have been playing off one group against another. Pensioners against the young, students against the unemployed. That should be the message Occupy supports today.
: This country has a lot of disabled. Fascists in power but why is the bloody poppy selling arms to burn babies? Go to the black cenotaph for women, it’s on the way to #10 Downing street, gather 100 people, 10 names each, write them down, have Cameron see them every day though I guess they’ll be taken down soon enough.
: How many vets are fighting for corporate control? How many are failing the ATOS exam? How many vets?
Lilias: Contact the Veterans for Peace movement. XSS guy, Ben Griffith.
Phoenix: Silent genocide. Alliance building, get as many groups (doctors, NHS) in there as possible. Timing?
Update on FB library. Monday we get a license for 2 years. Also, call-out for next national Occupy conference.
Clive: I feel the anger hearing these stories. One’s instinct is to go and attack the government. We’re not going to solve this by bringing down the Tories. It’s not a political demo. The people who have the money control the politics. We need to attack the systemic problems existing in the current economic system.
Paula: Part of the action will be targeting this, contrasting our situation with tax cuts and bailing banks out.
Ben: My concern is that we are incredibly respectful to DPAC. Let’s not bring our own wishes and desires to the party.
: In the 80′s I worked in the City. Commodities, air-freight and so on. Until 1992. I haven’t got on a list for a home yet. I still cannot get a place. Ok, someone’s paying for a hostel for me until the end of the year. Crisis Christmas badge. Social workers said I made myself intentionally homeless. benefits office said they sent checks to me but they were returned, so my case was closed. I haven’t received money for 4 years. At the bed and breakfast, I was refused food for 12 weeks and I couldn’t move. The meals were paid for but the council staff decided not to take action. I could go on all night. 22 years I worked and paid national insurance, class 1 and 2. One day it’s all gone because I became disabled. Now I haven’t got a bed to sleep tonight. 10k is an understatement. There are many more. You’re blindfolded, your legs and hands are tied and you’re put in a ring with giants. It’s a death sentence.
Fanny: It’s a case of “First they came for”.
Paula: The Nazis perfected the art of killing people by practicing on the disabled. We are aware of our history. It’s just too close for comfort.
Steve: Challenge the prejudice. This is what we’ve let, what we have allowed to happen. Pick out from two years ago, phrases that the Conservatives said.
Paula: How to help. Start talking with everyone you know about the action.
Ian: It’s important that those relationships (buddying) begin now, so it’s not like anonymous people interacting. We’ll have more days to arrange this. Buddy-in-training. We’ll be making an announcement shortly.
Mark: This room cost us 60 pounds to hire tonight, so I’ll be passing a hat around. We’re looking to see if OL officially endorses this action. I see a lot of enthusiasm for this action. Is anyone unwilling to support it but can stand aside?
[no hands up - consensus reached]
———————————- end of discussion on item #2 ————————————
Janie: I’m a legal observer, part of Green and Black cross. Was invited to represent Occupy at UN. They sat us in a room with lawyers, various human rights groups, Liberty, Greenpeace, charities, NGOs, and one guy who said he specialised in crowd control. The UN loves us (Occupy), we have so much respect. I gave every legal arrest, May 12th, every copper’s name.
No problem with us being in tents as long as we don’t get in the way. Deep concern with the use of embedded undercover officers, case of Mark Kennedy. Public Order Act 1986, article 13 – allows prohibition of marches. EDL demo was used as a front to impose a 30-day ban in 3 burroughs during the London Arms Fair.
Containment/kettling. Indiscriminate and disproportionate in nature. Has a powerful and chilling effect on exercise of right/freedom of peaceful assembly.
Detailed databases of activists. Definition of domestic terrorism is too broad.
Protest-liaison officers. For this to function properly, need to separate liaison function from intelligence gathering.
Invite NGOs to monitor protesters. Strict police bail conditions may be challenged before a court but process may be costly and affected by cuts.
Stop and search powers, use of private companies and civil injunctions. Aggravated trespass. He’ll recommend that it not be used against protesters.
MLK – the ultimate measure of a man/country is not where he stands at a time of convenience but where he stands at a time of challenge.
Trade unions. Undue constraints to solitary strikes and secondary picketing. The latter is allowed under human rights.
These recommendations aren’t in place yet. Full report comes out in June. There is a waiting period of 6 months, see if the government gets on it, after which they start questioning the government.
Would suggest you print some copies of this UN report and take it with you to next demo or action.
Ruth: Saturday 16th February, Stop the Great Fuel Robbery. Where: Department of Energy and Climate Change, 3 Whitehall Place SW1A 2AW. A people’s assembly to share stories and ideas. Bring your fuel bills, banners and placards, and blankets, flasks and hot water bottles to keep warm. Supported by DPAC, GLPA, GWS, SMSD, SPAG, AAWG, WinVisible, Redbridge Pensioners’ Forum and others.
David: Saturday 16th March. UK Uncut, Rules are planning a DA.