London gets occupied


London is the latest city to find itself under occupation, in a wave of protests stretching from Wall Street to St. Paul’s Cathedral and Bay Street. Occupy London got underway last Saturday, with a relatively small protest at Victoria Park. Another protest is planned for October 22 at Campbell Park.

The movement, which began with New York City’s Occupy Wall Street, has a variety of different aims, ranging anywhere from economic issues to social justice causes.

“It’s a convergence of issues, but it really comes down to how the interests of the corporate class are dominating the interests of people, and the people are seeking justice on a range of issues,” Cortney Dakin, a fourth-year philosophy and environmental science student who is involved in future Occupy London protests, said. “So it comes off as this blur, and if you’re not on the ground in the protest, there’s no way to dialogue with 500 people who each have individual concerns.”

The Adbuster Media Foundation, a Canadian group which was a driving force behind the original New York protest, claimed they took inspiration from the recent unrest in Middle Eastern and North African countries. The Occupy movement, which has branded itself as a grassroots campaign, has been criticized for its perceived lack of a clear directive.

“It seems that there is a lot of goals in mind, varying from Aboriginal rights, to poverty assistance to undermining the strength of capital,” Cameron Anderson, assistant professor of political science at Western, said. “I would say that it is pretty difficult to accomplish anything with such a range of interests.”

However, participants in the movement say the lack of clarity is an advantage for the campaign. “The main goals of the protests are to reduce and end corporate greed and the unfair distribution of wealth from the one per cent super rich elite to the 99 per cent poor, in comparison. This is what I think was the first goal,” Rachelle Marek, a student at Brescia University College and participant in Occupy Bay Street, said, noting how more representation has contributed to the evolution and continuation of the movement.

“Now that many individuals and demographics are being heard, each person has their own motives, which is amazing for this level of protest because it means that we will continually need to be satisfied,” Marek said. “The demands that are being made to bring the one per cent to share their wealth can only be made with a large change or reform.”

Such representation is coming from the general assemblies at each protest site, which are designed to come up with goals and demands using input from all participants. Even these assemblies reflect the leaderless nature of the movement, with no permanent leading  bodies according to Dakin.