Occupy Public Assembly For Gaza 26th July #OccupyTheOccupation
By Inka Stafrace
Occupy in London sent out the suggestion to occupy Parliament Square after the Gaza march through our social media although there was little pre planning. In a relatively spontaneous fashion we wanted to create a space that compliments the large marches (between 45-60,000 turned up yesterday) and utilises the energy and interest of the crowd at the end of such loud, potent and uniting expressions to end the horror at what is happening to the people of Gaza.
The possibility of an occupation in Parliament Square, seeded and grew into an assembly #OccupyTheOccupation
We believe that occupy styled protests which set up camp and create a space for the public to organize and express opinion are powerful and we know from past experience that our government and the general public are likely to notice and dialogue about occupation protests just as much as they are about larger than ever one day protests. Occupies are not easy to manifest. The energy and committement of many impromptu participants is required and yesterday it was not there for a vareity of reasons.
However we did put on a public assembly and the positive response was heartening.
At first we gathered directly behind Winston Churchill’s statue.
We began when the main event organized by the Stop The War Coalition ended. The main event consisted of a 45 – 60,000 strong march from the Israeli Embassy to Parliament Square were a large stage and sound system to match is set up and speakers speak! The speakers were high profile such as Labour MP Diane Abbot.
Although I am aware of the pit falls of providing amplification to random folk, the atmostphere we created yesterday worked a treat. We naturally did have two people that went so far off track we were lucky to cast them back, including a singer who sang off key as much as he did in tune, but with timings of, on average, 3-5 mins per speaker and the sun shining on a breezy warm day, the assembly’s interest was held and many participated. As the assembly enlargened we moved to the grassy bit of Parliament Square.
The topics covered in the open mic included:
the arms industry involvement and the profits of the on going war;
the targetting of women and children being one of many clear indications that Operation Protective Edge is part of an ongoing genocide;
the BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions movement) comprehensive list here
islam being a religion of peace;
the war being on islam;
all people of the world being one people;
solidarity with the Jewish people opposed to the oppression of the Palestinians;
the geopolitical significance of the US and the UK supporting Israel;
the shamefully obvious bias of the BBC and certain main stream media outlets;
historical threads to the war;
solutions: two state solution; one state solution; all nation states disappearing.
We did a temperature check on how many people were willing to stay through the night and counted 15 people. There were logistics to consider and for 15 people , I am afraid to confess the energy was not there. In my opinion, it is not a politcial statement of merit for 15 people to stay (in Pariament Square) after 45-60,000 have left. We would have most likely been arrested in the dead of night. We then got a temperature check on whether we should occupy next week at the end of an as yet unconfirmed march. There was an enthusiasm for this and we are yet to decide on whether we shall do this or not. People in the assembly provided their email addresses to stay in touch and we intend to.
As activists we float on a dingy in an ocean of not knowing whether what we do makes any freaking difference to anyone or anything let alone the big picture. With the sharks waiting from the crumbs we carelessly throw to the seagulls so we feel less isolated we do what we can to stay afloat, forever figuring out different ways of doing things and forever doing the same. Yesterday we saw land.
Many people came up to me and other organizers to thank us for our efforts. After being in a crowd of between 45-60,000 people we clearly provided a service although I would never have guessed that is one of our gifts to concerned citizenry. As one Palestinian refugee after another came to the mic, along with horrified mothers, well read historians, emotionally tortured muslims, and distressed UK citizens, I realised that we were providing an outlet that was tactile and connected unlike social media that although is immediate is disconnected and at times annonymous. There is something utterly refreshing about a public assembly in the sunshine!
To hear, see and stand near the woman depicted in the image below speak of the UK government’s blame of the situation of her refugee status since 1948 all the while implying that Israel are mere pawns in a much bigger picture had a significant impact on everyone in the audience, much more than any Guardian article or infuriatingingly lop-sided BBC coverage could.
So although we did not achieve the occupation we advertised we did a good day’s work. Please stay tuned for updates on what we may think up next. We are as horrified as most people in the UK about what is being done in Gaza and the UK government’s complicity to it.
LIVESTREAMS FROM OBI_LIVE