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Welfare in the City – an update from Occupy London Stock Exchange

 

In light of recent sensationalist stories in the media sparked by the publication of the City of London Corporation’s legal bundle detailing a naturally one sided picture of the camp at St Paul’s Churchyard, Occupy London wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update on its welfare initiative.

Occupy London welcomes volunteers, particularly those with expertise and professional training, to get involved in its welfare initiative and is also currently looking to upgrade its facilities.  To get involved, email: welfareolsx@gmail.com or leave a message for Welfare at the Information Tent or attend the Welfare working group meetings: 6pm every Monday evening, downstairs at Ye Olde London, Ludgate Hill.

A comprehensive update is detailed below.

Before providing this, Occupy London would like it noted that the Evening Standard has not to date provided the camp with a formal right to reply, which was requested following the front page story it ran (“Needle bins at St Paul’s camp to beat junkie health hazard“) that Occupy London felt particularly overstepped the mark. Occupy London’s response to this article may be found here (http://occupylsx.org/?p=1421).

Occupy London also wanted to thank representatives from Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility who have provided assistance to Occupy London’s Welfare crew and for the response that they prepared to the Evening Standard’s article – which to date has also not been published:

“It comes as no surprise that the media will engage in a smear campaign against the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s. (Needle bins at St Paul’s camp to beat junkie health hazard, Evening Standard, 23 November). But what a sad and telling state of affairs that St Paul’s and the City of London social services, in their witness statements last week supporting the Corporation of London’s eviction plans for the protest camp, evoke the ‘shocking’ spectre of ‘street life’ emerging in their wealthy, virtually resident-free backyard. Two institutions of the  Square Mile, supposedly sharing a vocation of care and support for the  most socially and psychologically vulnerable in this disgracefully unequal society of ours, cannot wait to clear their doorstep of one of the most thoughtful and inspiring challenges to global greed and corruption in decades – by demonising the most disenfranchised of the  protest camp’s community.

“Can it really be any surprise to eviction supporters Nicholas Cottam, the registrar of St Paul’s, and Joy Hollister, head of the City of London social services, that a community offering companionship, free food, conversation and a message of hope for a more caring society would be attractive to the homeless, to alcohol and drug users, to the psychologically vulnerable – and to the owners of three dogs? Shock horror! Urinating in alleys, alcohol and drug abuse, excessive noise and threatening behaviour on the streets at night? Have Nicholas and Joy never ventured out to a City pub on a Friday night? Any and every Friday night?

“Meanwhile a growing group of volunteers – counsellors, psychotherapists and psychiatrists, mental health and youth workers, GP’s and social workers – have been working with some of the protest  camp residents to provide a service that aims to support the social and psychological welfare of the whole tent community. We suggest the church and the local social services might consider coming along and working with us, rather than conspiring with the privileged of Treasure Island to sweep its social conscience once again into the City sewers.

“Paul Atkinson, Suzanne Keys, Nick Totton (chair), Susie Orbach, Andrew Samuels, Aida Alayarian, Ruth Calland, Jocelyn Chaplin, Nick Davis, Janet Haney, Adrian Harris, Martin Hempel, Mary Hill, Jean-Francois Jacques, Riva Joffe, Susanne Levin, Beatrice Millar, Chip Ponsford, Chris Robertson and Tony Slater. For Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility”

Ad hoc beginnings of the Welfare group
Since 16 October – the second day of the Occupy London Stock Exchange – camp members were contacting organisations with experience in supporting vulnerable people to help ensure the stability of the camp. Having pursued this avenue for two weeks, it became apparent that it would be more efficient and responsible for the camp to create its own welfare service, rather than relying on external organisations.

Call for welfare assistance
On 3 November Occupy London made a call out for the welfare programme it decided to instigate aiming to:

  • Create a Welfare Centre within the bounds of the camp at St Paul’s, staffed and supported by volunteers with specialist expertise
  • Provide access to and signpost mental health advice services, alcohol and drug addiction services, rehousing services and more.

It also outlined some needs of the camp:

  • We appeal to all those with relevant skills and experience in social work, counselling, drug and alcohol services, welfare, housing and mental health issues to donate whatever
  • If you have more time available and would like to help out on a daily/nightly basis, please contact us to offer this crucially required  support
  • We encourage those who are affected by the issues we are discussing to use this as an opportunity to share your own experiences, express your ideas and organise together for a better future

In the call out Occupy London stated:

“After just over two weeks, our tented city standing in the protective shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral is becoming a real community. But we are still part of London and we share some of the problems of that great city.

“London is the 5th wealthiest city in the world and one of the world’s major financial centres – yet, despite this apparent prosperity and technological progress, there are still Londoners without homes, structure and support. What happens in London every day is merely a reflection of the increasing global disparity between rich and poor and unfair distribution of wealth.

“At the same time, the austerity measures imposed in the UK where tax revenues have been used to fund bonuses have led to a further decline in the quality of our society. Essential services are being cut or privatised and those with real and complex needs are being left out in the cold. Now more than ever, those who are homeless or have mental and physical health problems or addiction issues need support from the communities they live in.  We are all part of the 99 per cent.

“Our camp is becoming a beacon for those who feel that they do not have a stake in society, for vulnerable and marginalised people. They and we are all part of the 99 per cent. It is often said that you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members; Occupy London aims to create a better society, but we need your help.

“We will not abandon or ignore the most vulnerable members of our society. We are aware that many vulnerable people are coming to the camp (including people with mental health issues, alcohol and drug problems) and we believe that we have to address these problems head on rather than the ad hoc fashion we have to date. If this camp is to aim to be part of creating a better and more just society we need to tackle these issues pro-actively.”

Response to call out
Occupy London received a phenomenal response to the call out, with over 50 emails received in one day, as well as calls from many and varied individuals, especially huge support from the group Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility.

At the same time, amongst the trolls on the website, there was some moving feedback from a person identifying themselves as Hidden Member of Society, who said:

“I would like to say, that I am a person that goes down to the camp and normally just sits on the steps, I am probably one of the people that this post is trying to help. I appreciate that they are trying to accommodate and accept people like me, when society just does not want to even try, or only tries until they lose patience, so never gains the understanding that is needed.

“I go there because it is the most safest place I feel in London. This is because of the people that are there. They are wonderful. I have at last spoken to some, instead of just sitting there. Hopefully I will eventually gain improvments [sic] in my health sufficiently to join the movement. Funnily enough, being around positive people is doing my health a great deal of good in itself.

“There is such a lot of negativity in this world that causes the ill health. A great deal of stress means no one has any time or patience anymore for anyone else so people are not treated with compassion or like human beings anymore.

“The camp community is what I would love my own community to become. I live instead somewhere that I am isolated and nobody sees, except a supermarket cashier. Here, I feel that I belong somewhere for the first time in years.

“Thank you for being there and I hope that St Paul’s drops the law suit altogether. A lot of good could come out of this. There is [sic] a lot of teachings that need to occur and it would be the best base to do this.”

Guardian Comment is Free blog regarding welfare
On 15 November, a month after Occupy London set up its camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, the Guardian invited Occupy London to guest-edit Comment is free (Cif). One of the articles focused on welfare [2]:

“Alison Playford, welfare: ‘Some homeless members of the camp are crucially involved in its infrastructure’

“When I arrived at St Paul’s on 15 October, the issues of London’s homeless population and the wider mental health and social concerns of the potential Occupy London camp members were not on my agenda. My foremost concerns lay with Palestine, from where I returned this time last year, and with Egypt, where I had been the Christmas before. My intentions were to contribute to any movement that might deflect our imperialist culture from its seemingly unstoppable trajectory – the pillaging of the oil states that feed our gas-guzzling society.

“I tentatively put up my tent – the fifth one up, I think, and put my energy into helping to set up the Tent City University. It was there that we first had a hint that homeless people were heading to the camp to sleep, as the marquee gradually became an ad hoc hostel at night. As word got round on the grapevine, some homeless people even started asking if they could reserve their places to sleep for the night.

“Another indication of a pressing need came in the form of complaints from St Paul’s Cathedral regarding drinking and antisocial behaviour on site. We soon identified the perpetrators and realised that many had an issue with alcohol abuse. It dawned on us that others who came to us were suffering from mental health problems and other substance-abuse issues.

“These are problems from the wider community, but by offering a ready-made community and free meals for everyone we had brought them to St Paul’s doorstep. We were unprepared. Some pastoral care from St Paul’s Cathedral would be hugely welcome – and we do understand that some small support from the cathedral may soon be on its way.
As a Samaritan volunteer, I was already aware of the troubles many people face. Confronted by these problems in the camp, I felt drawn to leave Tent City University, and set about establishing a welfare centre in the heart of Occupy London.

“It is often said we can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable members and I believe that for us here at Occupy London, this is has to be central to our community practices. We are not only seeking greater equality and inclusiveness in wider society, but also “being the change”; as we campaign against economic and social injustice we must also cater compassionately for the casualties of a system we abhor. As a direct democracy, we seek to have all voices in camp represented. Some permanent homeless members of the camp are crucially involved in its activities and infrastructure: James, who slept on the steps of St Paul’s for 10 years is now a valuable member of the kitchen team.

“Providing for the vulnerable is an issue that all the Occupy camps continue to face as we strive to create a kinder and more inclusive society. I hear that Occupy LA, particularly, operates a very successful and large welfare service. I am concerned as to the fate of our homeless members when the camp, as it eventually must, disperses. We hope to address this as effectively as possible.

“We put a call-out for volunteers over a week ago and hope that our newly erected welfare tent will shortly offer a full 24-hour service, dealing not only with the issues facing vulnerable people, but also with activist “burn out”. We appeal to all those with relevant skills and experience in social work, counselling, drug and alcohol services, welfare, housing and mental health issues to donate whatever time they can. Also, if you have some time available but perhaps no specialist skills, please contact us – we would love to hear from you!

“To get involved, email: welfareolsx@gmail.com or leave a message for Welfare in our info Tent at Occupy London, or attend our working group meetings: 6pm every Monday evening, downstairs at Ye Olde London, Ludgate Hill” 

A day in the life of the Welfare group
The issues that members of the welfare team have been addressing have been many and varied. The welfare tent now has people covering it approximately 12+ hrs a day, from 10am until 10pm currently and it aims to provide 24 hour cover as soon as possible.

The listening service – primarily providing listening, calming by words and reassurance – is provided both in one-to-one situations and also in a more general, conversational way around the area of the tent. It is often staffed by counsellors and various therapists who have volunteered. Around 10-20 people are seen on a given day, as well as chatting with other people outside the tent. Often people who want help will just hover by welfare and tell a member of the Welfare crew a bit of their life story, talk of their troubles, insecurities and the crew aims to provide a friendly ear.

There are usually two people at the tent and if there are more people, they will be wandering around the camp, chatting with people checking that people are doing ok (i.e. Are you warm enough? Have you eaten?) as well as diffusing potentially tricky situations. They also let people know that there is welfare information and resources which may be useful.

Currently Welfare has had hundreds of volunteers and is working on collecting the information on what each person can provide so we can best utilised the skills offered.

Welfare is also linked in with other groups around the camp, such as the Tranquillity team who look after the camp at night, the Well Being tent which provides different massage techniques, meditation and healing therapies, as well as the First Aid tent, where there has been cross-over with physical problems and also to legal support where required.

Statement for external support agencies
Support and referrals to external organisations have been provided to people with housing issues and problems with drugs and alcohol. As part of its communication to external groups, via homeless charity Broadway Occupy London provided this statement as a means of letting them know what type of assistance is required:

“Occupy London is an inclusive community seeking to address social and economic injustice, as part of the fight for real democracy. It is a place that is giving people hope for a better future and we want to welcome everyone to our community.

“However, we are aware that there are an increasing number of vulnerable people coming to the camp, including people with mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependence or without homes, who are potentially putting themselves and others at risk.

“Occupy London can be a challenging environment at times. Providing those who are staying and working with us with the support they need, keeps our welfare volunteers very busy.

“We do the best we can, but we have very limited capacity to support those whose circumstances are already challenging. This is the reason we have put a call out for support. It is not our intention to duplicate existing services and we ask that we work with local services to support people that need help. We do not want to encourage vulnerable people to come to the camp and risk losing existing support services and accommodation.

“We are currently working hard to put in place a system of restorative justice that will enable us to deal fairly and inclusively with difficult and potentially destructive situations. But people cannot expect to stay at the camp if their behaviour is unsafe.

“There is a no drug and alcohol policy on the camp.

“We welcome ongoing dialogue with relevant outreach agencies to support us in managing these issues in accordance with the ethos of Occupy London.”

Some examples:
Example of the sorts of instances that the welfare team has dealt with include:

  • “I have had a young woman camp member come to see us who was experiencing some unwelcome attention from a male camp member (who was in a relationship with someone in the camp). She was very upset as she had has some traumatic experiences in her past. We talked with the young woman and were joined by the man’s long term partner and we talked with them about what had happened as well as their friendship. Having talked with them, we offered to link her in with an agency that offers counselling for the homeless. Later on I dealt with the man involved, who was angry and upset and felt that the situation had been exaggerated. We calmed the situation down. The couple have since left the camp for a break. And the young woman is still with us and feeling a little better.
  • “We liaised with First Aid, who had been trying to help one of the homeless people on camp, who has a drink problem and is terminally ill, so that we could get him into a place where he could have a bed and his complex medical needs could be assessed. We looked after him at Welfare until the outreach came to see him. We allowed him to take shelter in welfare and found him blankets. He was then referred for advocacy services and Broadway services looked into the possibility of him attending a Christian detox and rehabilitation service in Manchester, as there is nowhere in the City of London for people with his particular circumstances.”

Current aims of the Welfare group
The Occupy London welfare group is open to anyone willing and able to contribute to well being and welfare on the camp. The current aims of the group, as agreed on Monday 5 December at the Welfare working group meeting and passed by the General Assembly on Tuesday 6 December, are as follows:

  • Listening and support services for camp members
    • Offer support to camp members by providing a safe space and a listening service to; those who wish to off load, get some stress management techniques and practical support
    • Help camp members to identify those who may be approaching burnout or feeling trauma and refer them to supportive and sympathetic agencies
  • Liaison and referral for people for specific issues
    • Assisting the homeless, those living with mental health difficulties, those with alcohol or other dependency issues, and other vulnerable adults, that have been drawn to St Paul’s
    • Using the established agencies such as Broadway and other relevant agencies to refer individuals *seeking* help with their issues
    • Encouraging anyone who is currently engaged with any welfare agencies or systems of support to stay connected with them with the aim to minimise their present difficulties
    • To support the homeless members who were in the St Paul’s area before Occupation arrived many of whom have become valuable and hard working members of the camp and are expressing that their lives have been enhanced by becoming part of a supportive community
    • Also to try to give the marginalised members of our society a voice and ascertain their views and desires
  • Training and skills sharing
    • To identify what kind of training, workshops and skill sharing that may be useful to strengthen the welfare group, and take up the offers from those able to provide us with “training” opportunities. To date there have been two workshops focusing on this, one at St Paul’s and one at the Bank of Ideas
  • Positive welfare publicity
    • To minimise and debunk the negative and false stories around welfare issues of the camp
  • Conflict resolution support
    • To liaise and offer support to other groups in the camp such as Tranquillity who are dealing with individuals or groups of people whose behaviour is disruptive or aggressive
    • To put forward a team to work at diffusing and calming tricky situations, particularly at night times and weekends when we experience more visitors to the camp. We believe these ideas have been welcomed by Tranquillity

Current Occupy Welfare group needs
To achieve the above, it feels it need the following;

  • Welfare space
    • We need a decent structure, weatherproof and welcoming, to provide welfare services from, with an internal space that can be used for private conversations, and as a quiet area for anyone wishing to seek a little peace
    • Ideally we would like to incorporate a “sleep over” section of welfare for those volunteers and camp members
    • We may need to request finances for the structure/tent. This request would come from the welfare working group
  • Equipment
    • We need a small amount of equipment, such as stationary, comfy chairs, a heater, blankets and soft furnishings, some of which we may find donated some of which we may need finance for
  • Rota
    • We need to co-ordinate and rota in all the volunteers that are able to offer welfare in as many appropriate areas of care as we can realistically manage
    • This involves making sure emails are responded to quickly – perhaps initially with the aims and needs of the welfare working group – and people know they are welcome to come and meet someone at welfare tent and maybe from there sign up on the gmail calendar on the welfare laptop.
  • Log and handover
    • To keep a basic log of any welfare undertaken (keeping anonymity of all concerned) or any incidents on site, have a hand over routine and debrief for volunteers and “workers” and support for each other, possibly some kind of supervision
    • This should help to maintain continuity and “flag” possible problems so as to be a preventative measure, and allow us to identify repeating difficulties, triggers for unwelcome behaviour, and anticipate where we may need to strengthen the welfare crew
  • Team work
    • We need to work collectively and with trust with all concerned
    • We need to communicate openly with each other
    • We need to be mindful of our limitations and be able to challenge each other and ask each other for help and support so that no one person becomes overwhelmed and we each know what others are doing
    • We have a welfare working group meeting for all who can come daily at 6pm in the welfare tent
    • Weekly meetings are on Mondays at 6pm in Ye Olde London pub, down the road from St Paul’s. After these meetings, there is a meeting specifically for professional psychotherapists and psychiatrists that are involved with the Welfare team
    • Minutes from our meetings will go on the welfare email list. The welfare email list is somewhere we can communicate with each other, as is the google group that is currently being set up. We will also feedback to camp process and GA meetings.

Around the camp
There are numerous other working groups, which the Welfare group has interacted with. There are also a number of issues which members of welfare have been involved in sorting. An overview of some of these include:

Camp events
The camp has rearranged timings of all events of the camp so that they would not clash with services and other events at the Cathedral, as well as to ensure that noise levels are kept to a minimum when we’ve been made aware of these events and services. Instances where this might not have happened have been addressed as they arose with the people concerned

City of London
The camp has on a number of occasions spoke directly with the City of London Coporation’s Health and Safety Manager who has confirmed that City of London Health and Safety had not raised any issues with St Paul’s.

Fencing
The camp liaised with the Cathedral regarding ensuring access to the restaurant on the Northside which had been closed since the arrival of the camp. The camp had actually kept this fire exit clear throughout, however we agreed for the heras fencing to be put in place as the Cathedral expressed insurance concerns regarding this. The fencing was installed providing access to the restaurant/fire exit as well as continuing to ensure the fire break that was already in place. We liaised with the rest of the camp to ensure that camp was aware that this was a necessity due to the requirements of the Cathedral’s insurers. We have also urged the Cathedral on numerous occasions to open this entrance to the Cathedral’s cafe and restaurant as we are sure that the camp and visitors would like to support these independent businesses.

Fire Brigade
Initially the Fire Brigade had contacted the Cathedral about fire concerns and after a meeting with the Cathedral and members of the camp in which some of these issues were discussed, the Fire Brigade had taken a look around the camp and had only a few requests for the camp to alter in order to facilitate that the camp meet fire safety requirements.

A member of the camp met with the Fire Brigade officers and took notes on what needed to be addressed and these were immediately addressed within a few hours, including creating more fire breaks, an evacuation plan, and for tents to be grouped into smaller groups with a fire break around these smaller groups (i.e. thinning of the tents), as well as for a tent sharing scheme to be set up in order to limit the number of tents in the area, whilst allowing for new members to join the occupation.

In addition, open fires were banned anywhere in the camp, which everyone has adhered to during the occupation to date. All of these issues have been addressed and the fire brigade has maintained that their remit to us has not altered, since these are all being facilitated and abided by the camp.

The camp also proactively ensured that there was a no fireworks policy in operation.

The Fire Brigade have said they have “no concerns” about the kitchen. In fact they said they thought it was extremely well set up and well run. Hygiene has also been cleared.

Graffiti
There have been a number of specific incidents we are aware of. In the main these have been tags and cannot be assumed to be anything to do with the camp.

First Aid/Medical
The medical team has been active since it was set up on the first day of the occupation. It has a team in operation that includes GPs concerned about the cuts, psychiatric nurses, A&E staff, paramedics and first aiders. It has been keeping a fully stocked first aid tent, which is manned 24 hours per day as well as periodic night patrols. They’ve also run skill shares and workshops to enable people to take these skills back into the community.

Meditation /self empowerment group
Has been organising events in a neutral space where people from all faiths and cultures can come and meditate, pray, relax or just be. People who stay at the camp as well as members of the public frequently visit the space for a moment of peace and retreat from the hustle and bustle. Already there have been a variety of different practices from meditation to reiki, to yoga, Buddhist chanting and head / shoulder massages which have all been well received and popular.

Recycling
Core to the camp, the City of London has commented that the City’s recycling quota has jumped since our occupation and jokingly offeredone of the people coordinating this a job.

Safer Space Policy
Developed by a number of groups across the camp, this has been ratified by the Occupy London general assembly (http://occupylsx.org/?page_id=1214).

Sanitation – Cleaning
The Sanitation Working Group is responsible for the ensuring areas around the camp are kept clean and free of any rubbish and leaves, including around the Cathedral, toilets and the camp’s kitchen. Every morning, at around 7am, members of Sanitation check around the cathedral to make sure areas are clean. Fortunately this has not been a problem most of the time, however when there have been issues, they are cleaned.

Representatives from the camp have repeatedly cleaned and cleared the drainage culverts that run North South on the North side of the Cathedral. At the beginning, unknowingly volunteers had poured greasy water into the drainage culverts. These problems were addressed and, in liaison with the City of London Corporation, a sanitary team of two men came, with some help from the camp, and cleared the culverts. Since then, all dirty water and waste has been disposed into the sewage manhole grate at the front of St Paul’s situated on cobbles just in front of the bins and portable toilets as advised by the City of London Corporation.

Sanitation – Toilets
Public toilets operated by the City of London Corporation have not been open since the occupation has been present.

Portable toilets, which were put in place when people where kettled on the first day of the occupation, were removed on the third day of the occupation. At the time, the police said they were being removed for cleaning (which we have on video) and that new toilets would be delivered. However two hours later, the police informed the camp that they had no intention of supplying any more portable toilets, as they had no legal requirement to provide more loos, since the toilets supplied were put in place as a legal requirement when they took the decision to kettle us. Following the removal of toilets by the police on Monday, representatives at the camp liaised with a number of providers for alternative arrangements.

During this time, the camp, whilst not having adequate toilet facilities onsite, used toilets at local businesses. The Cathedral and others knew that we were working hard to source alternative portable toilets, to ensure sanitation directives were met within the camp. The Cathedral expressed a concern prior to the portable toilets being installed that people were alleviating themselves overnight in the vicinity of the cathedral, however, some of the areas mentioned where there had been problems with cleaning up, were not all in the immediate vicinity of the camp and cannot therefore be assumed to be the members of the camp. As a result of the camp’s outreach, five portable toilets have been donated and are cleaned twice daily at a cost of around £180 per day. These are located to the far front of the outside area of the Cathedral. The camp has requested to put toilets in other areas of the camp but have been told that access to clean them has been refused a number of times by the City of London Corporation.

It should also be noted, that it during events such as the Lord Mayors Show, it was the camp’s toilets that were used by members of the public as they lined the streets in front of St Paul’s waiting for the Lord Mayor to pass.

Shelter
Present at the camp since the beginning, representatives from Shelter have helped the camp with the management of the space, securing equipment, tents, sleeping bags and warm clothing, as well as instigating and managing the camps check in and out service which enables visitors to the camp to find spaces to sleep in.

People management
Throughout we have been working to ensure that people stay off the steps and that visitors can easily access the Cathedral. This has been happening from the first day that we arrived when initially a corridor was created through the crowds to allow for visitor access, then we worked with the Cathedral to arrange for the steps to be clear throughout. It also must be factored in that visitors to the Cathedral and tourists often sit on the steps and also get involved in the activities of the camp. The camp has made signs and made clear notices at the information point, regarding respect for the area that we are occupying, and especially noted the needs of visitor access and ensured noise levels have been kept to a minimum during services and other events.

Tea & Empathy Tent
This is a space within the camp that is used to calm and relax people. The team are in close liaison with the Welfare team

Technical
The camp’s Tech team has ensured that all cables are waterproof and their generator is properly housed.

Tent City University
The camp’s educational arm, this is a space to learn, share knowledge and develop skills through workshops, debates and other events. It is currently planning an event focusing on welfare issues that have been raised at the camp while looking at the wider issues in society.

Tranquillity Team
Tranquillity is the name of the Occupy team that handles camp security. It ensures there are responsible people on patrol at all times, with the aim – liaising with police and other camp working groups especially Welfare – of protecting person and property and of building an ever-growing sense of safety on site.

Techniques used include non-violent de-escalation, mutual respect building, triage of incidents, constant information sharing with other camps and proactive police co-operation. Constant care is taken to be realistic. The team ensures it doesn’t overestimate its own capabilities, and instead aims simply to act as caring, responsible individuals on the ground using the peaceful and intelligent principles of the Occupy movement. The range of matters encountered is very wide, from minor checking of fire access and noise timetables… through normal city centre late night drunk/antisocial behaviour…  through persons with issues of substance abuse, homelessness or mental health…  to more serious threats to persons or property which exist only because Occupy London does, such as people violently opposed to the camp.  

Furthermore it must never be forgotten that the people that society (including those currently in charge of St Paul’s) labels “rejects”, the Occupy camp actively gives a chance to. In each incident of potential threat, Tranquillity exists to provide a first line of monitoring and defence, ensuring people on the ground to defuse, deter, refer to Welfare and call for help as necessary.  

At this point in time, Tranquillity can confidently claim firstly that incidents involving risk to person or property have been significantly less than might have been expected, and secondly that relations with City of London Police can fairly be described as excellent, with mutual respect for the different responsibilities, roles and strategies of the two entities, and constant co-operation, on a micro and macro level, particularly through the busier small hours of the night.

The Occupied Times

The Occupied Times has featured several articles about the good work being done to tackle welfare issues on site. The need for more welfare provisions in society has been a recurrent theme in the newspaper, and it has also debunked some false claims made by mainstream media in relation to welfare. Articles include:

  • Helping the vulnerable – http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=527
  • Broken system, not broken people – http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=1023
  • A Friend in Deed – http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=65
  • Skag, Squalor and Shock at St. Paul’s – http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=1404
  • While you were sleeping – http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=792
 
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