Occupy London statement on renewed legal action from the City of London Corporation
Today the City of London Corporation announced that they intend to recommence their legal action against us under the Highways Act.
As a movement, Occupy London believes in bringing divergent views together in a spirit of open discussion, with the intention of reaching consensus. We are therefore disappointed that the City of London Corporation has decided to cut off the process of dialogue at their end and go down the legal route.
Last week, Occupy London presented our formal counteroffer to the City of London Corporation. We asked the Corporation to do a few things that every other local authority does as a matter of course: to make itself accountable to the public under the Freedom of Information Act and to make certain aspects of its financial and lobbying activities more transparent. Today’s announcement is the first thing we have received in terms of a response. We cannot help but feel that the failure to engage with us constructively represents something of a missed opportunity.
We note that, in addition to discussion of the Corporation’s responsibilities as a highway authority, Stuart Fraser, the outgoing policy chair saw fit to cite “reports about vulnerable people, cases of late-night drinking and other worrying trends.” This is something we want to respond to directly.
Like occupations across the world, the sense of community Occupy London has fostered has attracted some of the more vulnerable members of our community to our camps. We have given a number of people, whom society has essentially written off, a renewed sense of purpose and self-esteem as part of a community where they are respected for the contributions they bring.
Some of those attracted to our camp come from challenging situations and bring those pre-existing difficulties with them. We have recently set up a welfare initiative to help those people where we can and to signpost them to existing service providers. We are not in a position to provide a solution to these problems – we are very much aware of this – but we are doing what we can. We are certainly not encouraging anyone who is already being provided with accommodation or support to come and join us: we just don’t have the resources to provide that kind of specialist help, as much as we’d like to.
Our camps at St Paul’s Courtyard and Finsbury Square represent hope to a great many people – some of whom don’t have all that much. If the City of London Corporation wishes to pursue this line of argument, what we would say to them is this: whatever “worrying trends” the Corporation may perceive are not actually trends. These are pre-existing problems and issues that the Corporation, as a local authority, has a responsibility to deal with. Sweeping difficult issues under the carpet, or simply seeking to move them on, will not actually solve anything.
In the spirit of the Occupy movement in London and throughout the world, we remain committed to open dialogue and will seek to continue that dialogue with the City of London Corporation, whether they feel willing to continue that process with us or not. As far as legal action goes, there is really very little to say: we are aware of our legal position and the likely timeframe for any action. We have a great legal team on board and are not in the least concerned about the road ahead.