Activists marched from Occupy London's St Paul's Cathedral camp to Parliament Square yesterday (Saturday). Some 2,000 set off with the main march at 3pm, while several hundred more dodged their way past police to reach the destination.
The march was part of a day of action by Occupy London aimed at spreading the occupation’s message to the wider public. Thousands of leaflets were handed out explaining the camp's principles.
The day started with speeches and discussions outside St Paul's. Speakers included Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, journalist Seumas Milne, comedian Josie Long, Weyman Bennett from Unite Against Fascism, and many of the occupiers themselves.
Protesters chanted “We are the 99 percent. You are the 99 percent!”, urging people to get involved. It seemed to work.
“We're with you guys!” shouted one restaurant worker. “I'm with them,” said a worker in a newsagent. “Everything's being cut, everything's too expensive.” A street cleaner held up a fist as the march passed by.
Steve Granville, a retired BT engineer and activist in the CWU union, came on the march with his union's flag. “I'm here to show trade unionists' and retired people's support,” he said. “This movement has the potential to do a lot. We've all got to link up.”
As they approached their destination marchers discovered that police had blocked off Whitehall. A cat and mouse game ensued for several hours as they looked for an alternative route to parliament.
Police told marchers that it was illegal to march within a kilometre of parliament without authorisation. But one group got there at around 5pm, and a general assembly was held in Parliament Square.
“Welcome to the first general assembly outside parliament!” shouted the facilitator over the megaphone, to cheers. Chants started of “This is what democracy looks like” and “We'll see you on Wednesday!”—a reference to the 9 Nov national student demonstration to be held later this week.
“This is real democracy,” Ahmad, a protester from Afghanistan, told Socialist Worker. “Those politicians just represent the super rich. They're totally alienated from the population. And coming from Afghanistan I know all about Western democracy.”
Jessica, a stage hand from Australia, was also there. “I'm really encouraged this sort of thing is going on the world over,” she said.
“The powers that be say we should define our vision. Well why don't they define their own vision of the future? Ours isn't utopian—it's that we want peace, education, human rights and a roof over our head.”
Police first told protesters to leave, then kettled them for a short time. Eventually protesters were freed from the kettle and made their way back to St Paul's. One shouted out, to cheers, “Today we took parliament!” There were no arrests during the day.