After the demos, the sit-in begins – in London and beyond
Monday 17 October 2011
It was a chilly night on the pavements around St Paul's Cathedral. But for the few hundred who stayed on after Saturday's main protest, the real demonstration is only just beginning. They are here, they say, for long haul.
In scenes resembling New York's Occupy Wall Street event, protesters in London reaffirmed their long-term ambitions by setting up a makeshift camp with kitchen, temporary toilets, a media centre and more than 75 tents.
Between 200 and 300 activists remained at the St Paul's camp last night, with Scotland Yard describing the mood as "calm".
"I wasn't planning to stay last night, but to know people all around the world are doing it was so inspiring," said Jen Witts, 31, charity worker, adding: "The Government doesn't work for the people any more."
Scores of cities in the US and in Europe saw similar protests across the weekend. By last night they were thought to have spread to 950 areas in 80 countries. The groups all adopted the "We are the 99 per cent" motif – a reference to the richest 1 per cent of the world's population who control its assets while billions live in poverty.
Gavin Smart, a delivery driver from Aylesbury, said: "Everyone's calling for a new style of democracy. This isn't a one-weekend protest – this is an encampment." The Met gradually scaled back its presence throughout the weekend, with around just 30 by Sunday afternoon. No arrests were made yesterday, compared to eight on Saturday, mainly for public disorder; six people were charged.
The Reverend Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul's, endorsed the right to protest, suggesting their goals were in keeping with Christian values: "This morning I read a bit from Matthew Chapter Six, about how you can't serve God and money."
The scenes were of stark contrast to New York, where police made more than 92 arrests over the weekend. Most of the demonstrations in Europe remained peaceful with the exception of Rome where violence broke out when masked "Black Bloc" protesters torched cars, attacked banks and hurled rocks at police officers. There were 70 injuries and 12 arrests.
Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday dismissed protests as the answer to the financial crisis. "It is true that a lot of things have to be faced up to in the Western world and there have been too many debts built up by states and clearly in the banking system a lot has gone wrong," he told the BBC. "The answer is governments to control their debts and deficits. I'm afraid protesting on the streets is not going to solve the problem."
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