Report from this month’s Occupy Democracy (and a fail for Boris Johnson!)


London’s Mayor Boris Johnson fails in his attempt to prevent Occupy Democracy from holding monthly protests in Parliament Square

Boris backed down and removed the fencing which had previously blocked Occupy Democracy’s access to Parliament Square, after a  Judicial Review was filed by Liberty and Occupy Democracy against Boris Johnson and the Greater London Authority. Liberty and Occupy Democracy argue that the decision to deny Occupy campaigners access to the Square on three occasions since October last year is an illegal interference with their right to protest. Boris now appears to be on the back foot.

Several hundred people were able to gather on Parliament Square on Saturday to continue the campaign for Real Democracy Now, highlighting the corporate takeover of our democratic system and the need for urgent radical reform.

Occupy London legal advisor Matthew Varnham said:

“The Greater London Authority is suggesting that the Occupy Democracy protests are illegal since permission has not been sought. However in 2012 the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association said that in his opinion ‘the exercise of fundamental freedoms should never be subject to previous authorisation, but at most to a regime of notification.’”

During Saturday’s peaceful gathering in Parliament Square, Occupy Democracy held workshops on the undemocratic influence of arms companies on government policy regarding the arms trade, with speakers from Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Stop the Arms Fair and SmashEDO. 

Occupy Democracy supporter Phil England said:

“Like other powerful interests, arms companies have an undemocratic and corrupting hold over government policy. It’s not in our interests to be selling £12 billion worth of arms to countries on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s own list of countries with serious human rights concerns. It’s an outrage that we are spending £700 million of taxpayers’ money every year subsidising this trade and licencing the sale of tear gas used to repress pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, and weapons likely to have been used by the Israeli Defense Forces during their raids on Gaza last summer.”

Occupy Democracy’s six-hour protest in near-freezing conditions also included spoken word and musical entertainment and an assembly in which attendees agreed new provisional “demands” and considered the movement’s general election strategy.

Occupy Democracy will be building the movement for democracy free from corporate influence by returning monthly to Parliament Square between now and the general election on 7th May. The next occupation will take place on February 14th-15th and is titled “Occupy Love: Conquering Divide and Rule” looking at issues of equality and representation in our democracy.

Provisionally, March 7-8th has also been agreed, with the theme of climate change and the environment to tie in with the Campaign Against Climate Change’s “Time To Act” march which ends in Parliament Square.

Occupy Democracy activist Maria Saunders said: 

“As the election approaches, we urge people who can see that our democracy is no longer working for the 99% to join us to build a social movement big enough to take it back.”

Earlier on Saturday, Occupy Democracy supporters took part in CND’s Wrap Up Trident action, in which a seven-mile long peace scarf knitted by thousands of people was wrapped around the Ministry of Defence and MP’s offices. 

At the rally afterwards CND General Secretary Kate Hudson announced the Occupy Democracy action from the stage and afterwards several hundred peace campaigners including veteran CND activist Bruce Kent joined the peaceful pro-democracy protest on Parliament Square.

Occupy Democracy activist John Sinha said:

“Renewal of Trident would be fundamentally undemocratic, against the spirit of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and a waste of taxpayers’ money. The £100 billion should be spent employing 150,000 extra nurses in the National Health Service not on servicing an outdated notion of what constitutes national security in the 21st century.”

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