As you probably all know, the Square Mile of the City of London is the world's second biggest financial centre, and ever since the mid 80s has very much followed suit in the Thatcher Reagan concoction of deregulated markets, fluid global finance, strange derivatives, and the sharp increase in wealth inequality that comes from the 'Anglo Saxon Model'. Indeed, the problems of the last three years are very much an international problem, with a transatlantic origin. So it's about time the Occupy London movement took root.
I live on the edge of the City, only a ten minute walk from St Paul's where the demonstrations began at Noon today, so it hardly showed great radical commitment to head down there, be a witness and a supporter, before heading back to diary what I saw. I would have stayed, but my daughter is not well, and I didn't want to get 'kettled' (contained) by the police, and unable to look after her this evening.
So here are some images. It is a preternaturally warm day here in London, and the crowds were pleasant, well behaved and peaceful. It was a great mix of people
Not many people had sleeping bags, and many tourists visit this spot, so it was sometimes hard to separate the tourists from the demonstrators: but many of the demonstrators seemed to come from all over Europe.
Of course, some of the banners were held by the Socialist Workers Party, and some of the more active groups - here blocking the street - were part of the revolutionary fringe. But they were good humoured and entirely peaceful too.
They also chanted "these are our streets" - a sentiment I entirely concur with (especially since the Reclaim the Streets movement cite my book A Shout in the Street as part of their inspiration :-) little plug here)
Though obviously not ALL streets are public.
The revolution will be televised, and as well as legal observers, endless camera crews, everyone seem to have their phone cameras at work.
The police presence grew considerably in the hour or so I was there, with vans arriving every minute. They'd obviously underestimated the size of the demo.
Though London life still goes on. Just around the corner, by St Bartholomew's church, the local clergy were completely oblivious to the thousands on the demo
After the riots of the summer and the looting, the student demos earlier this year (including an attack on the Prince of Wales' limo), I'm not surprised the police are out in force. But I hope they don't repeat the brutality that killed an innocent passer by during the globalisation demos several years ago (the police officer is facing trial - as should the NYPD motorcyclist yesterday IMHO).
Back home, there is still a helicopter overhead, and many police sirens. The streets are jammed. I hope it all goes off peaceably, but also that it makes an impact. I'll update if any other news comes in and try to upload some videos - if I work out how and if they're at all worth it.
UPDATE: Should have stayed a little longer. It seems Julian Assange addressed the crowd minutes after I left (though everyone has been kettled and I would have been stuck for hours). Here's some pictures of him arriving in a V for Vendetta mask. He was cautioned and interviewed before being allowed to continue.
He got to speak to the assembled press, if not the crowds.
Wherever there is corruption in the world... it ends in London
11:59 AM PT: Here's Julian talking on the steps with the 'crowd megaphone'