DEMOCRACY “ARRESTED” OUTSIDE HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
- Protester holding a coffin branded “UK Democracy R.I.P.” arrested on Parliament Square
- Despite Judicial Review police disrupt peaceful pro-democracy protests under the cover of darkness
- Freedom of the press threatened as NUJ members threatened with arrest and independent livestreamer arrested.
Under the cover of darkness the Metropolitan police’s Territorial Support Group (TSG) officers, on instruction from Greater London Authority Wardens, disrupted Occupy Democracy’s monthly protest in front of the Houses of Parliament. This is despite London Mayor Boris Johnson and the GLA being under Judicial Review for their erection of fences in October, November and December.
Around 200 Occupy Democracy supporters were threatened with arrest and five arrests were subsequently made in which large numbers of police targeted and, sometimes violently, picked off peaceful protesters.
These arrests interrupted what was otherwise a packed programme of speakers, workshops, discussions, entertainment and a ceremony marking the ‘death’ of UK democracy. The focus of the programme was on failures in equality and representation with regard to gender, race, class and ability, with speakers from groups including Sisters Uncut, 50:50 Parliament, Women Against the Cuts and the Shaker Aamer Campaign.
Five arrestees include the whistle-blowing former Liberal Democrat vice Chair Donnachadh McCarthy (holding coffin in picture) – who has now been arrested four times at Occupy Democracy protests – and popular citizen journalist “Obi” whose arrest raises worrying questions about restrictions on free speech and reporting. Lawyers have told us that some or all of the arrests are likely to be unlawful.
Photo credit: Louis Mignot
Far more police officers than neccessary were used to make the arrests, an intimidatory tactic which led to a hiatus in a peaceful assembly of Occupy London supporters who were discussing how and whether to engage with political parties in the run up to the election. The facilitator of the assembly was almost pushed over by police officers and others engaged in the discussion were trampled as the police surged into the crowd.
Former Deputy Mayor Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb, who chairs the GLA’s Police and Crime Committee, condemned the disproportionate and unnceccessary policing operation: “I’m horrified at the rather nasty policing of the latest Occupy protest. The police need reminding that it’s their job to facilitate peaceful protest, not suppress it.”
Donnachadh McCarthy’s arrest happened as he held a coffin symbolising the death of UK democracy. The coffin carried the inscription “UK Democracy R.I.P. Killed by corporate billionaires.” McCarthy said: “It’s outrageous that so many peaceful protestors are being arrested whilst Boris Johnson entertains the real criminals – making hundreds of thousands of pounds working for the tax dodging Barclay brothers at The Telegraph.”
Popular citizen journalist “Obi” said: “It’s hugely disappointing that Boris’ private security forces would arrest a citizen journalist in the ongoing attempt to prevent freedom of speech.”
Sam Keyes of Women Against The Cuts who was one of a number of speakers that addressed the impacts of the under-representation of women in parliament, said:
“The current democratic system in the UK is so deeply entrenched in neoliberal and white patriarchal ideology that it simply doesn’t work for women. They are disproportionately affected across every spectrum: education, legal, health – to name just a few – as both service providers, employees and services users. For example, 83% of cuts made by this current government have come directly out of the pockets of women.”
Occupy London legal advisor Matthew Varnham said: “Last month’s Occupy Democracy protest was facilitated on the grass of the Square. This change of approach was a welcome development following previous months where the Square has been closed. Unfortunately the GLA have now backtracked and last night’s arrests demonstrate an inflexibility on behalf of the GLA to continue to facilitate such protest. This is particularly problematic as we now know the GLA’s ‘repair schedule’ will likely see the grass area closed until “late spring”, so after the general election.” 
Occupy Democracy has arisen out of Occupy London, with the aim of creating a social movement for democracy free from corporate control that works for people and planet. Occupy Democracy’s draft demands include:
- the introduction of proportional representation so that everybody’s vote counts
- reform of funding of political parties to stop corporations and lobbyists having so much influence over election campaigns
- severing the ties between politicians and corporations
The March occupation of Parliament Square will take place on Saturday, March 7th with the theme of Climate Change and the Environment, to coincide with the Time to Act march and rally.
How representative is UK democracy?
Statistics showing a dire discrepancy between those within parliament and the population they are supposed to represent:
- Only 22% of the House of Commons are women 
- Only 4% are from ethnic minorities 
- 62% of the total are white men aged over 40 
- Over 33% attended private schools (including 20 Old Etonians) compared to 7% of the population as a whole 
- MPs earn at least £67,000 before expenses and second jobs are taken into account, putting them immediately in the top 5% of wage earners in this country 
It is clear that MPs are a priveleged elite rather than a cross-section of ordinary people. Therefore they have no understanding of the pain and misery their policies inflict on the population in general, and our poor and vulnerable in particular. Furthermore, parliamentarians often have a direct financial interest in supporting policies that are against the public interest.
- A third of MPs are buy-to-rent landlords 
- 206 parliamentarians have recent or present financial private healthcare connections and 142 Lords have recent or present financial connections to companies involved in private healthcare 
- 27 of the 59 wealthiest hedge fund managers have donated more than £19 million to the Conservative Party 
- 46% of the top 50 traded companies in the UK have a British parliamentarian as either a director or shareholder – six times the Western European average 
It’s no wonder that over 50% of Britons think MPs put their own interests first, that 72% don’t trust them to tell the truth and 65% think that at least half of MPs use their power for personal gain .
 Response to January’s Mayors Question Time Question No: 2015/0057 “‘…The maintenance of the main lawn, which includes scarifying, seeding, dressing and re-turfing should be completed by late Spring. These works are again weather dependent as the ground needs to be completely dry. Following this work there also needs to be a ‘rest’ period for the lawn, which is free of activities for the seeds to mature.”
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