Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Occupy Bath and Bristol - January 2012

Occupy Bath/Bath People's Assembly

Occupy Bath may no longer have a presence in Queen Square, but the movement lives on in Bath in 2012. At the beginning of January we organised a meal in Queen Square. We set up a gazebo and banners and brought a table, a cooker, pans and food and sent out an invite on facebook for anyone to join us. Despite the heavy rain, about 25 people turned up and had an excellent meal. This was not only a gathering for those who were at the camp, but was also a public display of people getting together to share and cook together to save energy and money, while creating a social environment.

The Occupy Bath meal in Queen Square, January 2012

Many of us have met up since the meal and we are currently working on some ideas, which will hopefully be rolled out in the near future. However, Occupy is not exclusive, and I encourage others to come up with ideas also - and you can share them with the other 400 or so people on the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OccupyBath

The Occupy-inspired Bath People's Assembly is still going strong, and now includes non-occupiers as well as those from the camp and/or the movement. We currently meet twice-monthly and the meetings are open to everyone. We've even had local councillors attend, and occasionally invite guest speakers, such as one of the organisers of the local Bath currency "The Oliver" and a councillor from the Independence for Frome, a local democracy group that now have the majority on Frome council. We currently have several projects in the planning stage, including a meeting of all of the groups in Bath to see how they can work with each other. The website is www.bathpeoplesassembly.org and the minutes of our meetings are on there (latest minutes coming soon). Occupy Bristol are now in the process of setting up a network of People's Assemblies and have attended our meetings to see how we do things. The meeting format is one all of the Bath Occupiers are familiar with (hand signals etc.) and it has now caught on amongst the non-occupiers.

Occupy Bristol - Eviction and Phase 2

Occupy Bristol have now been evicted from College Green. After efforts to clean up the camp, the last few remaining structures were removed this morning. Newspaper reports suggest that there was just one person left, with a number of others having left when they were told they would be evicted. I've been back to visit several times since Occupy Bath packed up, and although they had their problems, they were determined to stay, and I was always met by familiar friendly faces who had been there since the start. The shacks they built when it got cold were amazing, warm and cosy with burners and kettles, and I was always offered a bite to eat or a cup of tea. I'll miss that, and I'm going to rant for a minute (it's my blog and I can do what I want on it):

It is a pity that some people in Bristol couldn't see beyond their noses and realise that these people weren't just doing this for the sake of it. Yes, it was a bit muddy and a bit untidy, but really - SO WHAT? If the loss of a small area of, frankly, dull and boring mown grass, happens to send a message to the government and the financial institutions that we are not happy with the situation, while simultaneously creating a vibrant atmosphere and a community of likeminded individuals, then I'm more than happy for it to be sacrificed. GRASS GROWS BACK!!! The Occupy camps were (and in some cases, still are) places where anyone can turn up 24/7 and be with people who are also concerned or affected by the the mess the country and the world is in. Having places like this is important. They were fun and there was a mix of people from many backgrounds. Sure, there were homeless people, but, again, SO WHAT? They are part of the 99% too, and in many cases the reason for their homelessness is out of their hands. If I were in control, I would have let them stay, and told the public that they have genuine concerns and should be free to express them - and that people should head down and hear what they have to say and make up their own minds. I would have had weekly meetings with them in the camp to find out what their concerns were and what I could do about them. Instead, Barbara Janke agreed to a lame "ethical banking policy" that effectively means the council don't have to do anything, despite banking with RBS. This is one blogger calling for her immediate resignation and replacement with someone with a conscience. Rant over.

However, like Occupy Bath, Occupy Bristol are not just about camping out. Their Move Your Money campaign idea has spread to other Occupations (and Occupy Bath are looking at it seriously). They are starting up a network of People's Assemblies and are also looking at coming up with an alternative to the council's Bristol 2050 project. Good luck to them, and I'll help where I can. They are meeting on 4th Feb to discuss these projects further (see Occupy Bristol website below)

Previous post on Occupy Bath: Occupy Bath - The End of the Beginning
Next Post on Occupy Bath: Do the right thing - Move Your Money!

Further Reading

Bath People's Assembly website (includes all minutes): http://www.bathpeoplesassembly.org/

Article on the Occupy Bath Meal: http://www.nowbath.co.uk/local-news/occupy-bath-return-for-meal-41979/
Occupy Bristol Website: http://www.occupybristoluk.org/

Guardian article on the Bristol eviction: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/jan/31/occupy-bristol-camp-cleared?newsfeed=true