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Gus Hoyt: I’m optimistic that Occupy Bristol has energised fight for justice

Love or hate it, everyone has spoken about them. With other Occupy camps across the country and the world they have certainly captured many imaginations

Occupy Bristol camp next to Bristol Cathedral

Occupy Bristol camp next to Bristol Cathedral

As it possibly draws to an end, no one can refute the fact that College Green looks a mess or that a lot of the constructions are an eyesore. Many feel robbed of what is a celebrated city centre resting and picnic spot.

This temporary damage to the Green pales into insignificance however when compared to the destructive behaviour of financial institutions worldwide.

We all know the background. The financial meltdown of 2008 has continued to worsen while modern economics centralises wealth with the top 1%. This model of expediential growth continues to favour exploitation and ecocide over basic values of protecting human rights and our environment for future generations.

The WWF now estimate that at our current rate of consumption we will need two planets to survive within 50 years. Everything – from the water we drink to the air we breathe – will become toxic or extinct.

In this light, I find the destruction that continues in the name of economic progress (local examples being the privatisation of the NHS and universities) far more disgusting than the temporary and easily remedied damage to College Green.

Since ‘Occupy Bristol’ first set-up their tents in October 2011, Cllr Green and I understood they planned to be there for a while; you can’t save the world overnight. In the first assembled meeting we called for porta-loos and access to fresh drinking water. From the start the Council refused to offer these basic conditions. Twenty-four hour toilets were not a luxury but a basic need, one that would have kept the Green and Cathedral grounds spotless for all to enjoy.

This attitude continued into classic fence sitting. The official line became: “We support your cause; but just not where we can see you, please.”

The officer brought in for negotiations specialised in traveller sites. This meant the wrong aspects were assessed from the beginning. This led to a great amount of wasted time where real issues could have been effectively dealt with.

The blame is not all on Bristol City Council. Obviously a non-hierarchical group such as Occupy doesn’t always sing from the same hymn-sheet and this led to a lot of confusion when dealing with ‘the establishment’. Their continued deliberate spirit of protest continued to ruffle some more sensitive feathers.

More controversially however is BCC’s recent decision to serve an eviction notice. From my conversations with some of the core protestors, it is clear that many are keen to pack up soon and move on to ‘stage two’. They have people’s attention and now wish to progress. For others though, an eviction notice is a big red flag. Further incitement will achieve nothing, but this looks like the route BCC have chosen.

The worst aspect is the sheer lack of accountability and democracy within BCC during the dialogue with Occupy. Their concerns regarding democracy were pantomimed in front of them. Not once was Full Council allowed to truly debate our new and closest neighbours. When discussions did happen, they were in private and consisted only of party leaders and officers. Considering that everyone in Bristol had an opinion on Occupy surely an informed debate by the city’s councillors should have taken place?

The final decision to start the eviction process was taken in secret. We all learnt about it at the same time as everyone else did – from the general press release.

This is certainly a ‘Marmite’ protest. Love or hate it, everyone has spoken about them. With other Occupy camps across the country and the world they have certainly lead the debate and captured many imaginations.

Here in Bristol they’re forming a ‘People’s Vision for 2050’, written by you – with their first meeting on Saturday 21st Jan from 2-4pm in Trinity Arts Centre. They are now successfully working with the many other groups who share a similar wish for social and environmental justice. Other groups have found inspiration or been re-energised and, forgive me for being optimistic, but I am feeling good about the future.

6 Responses to Gus Hoyt: I’m optimistic that Occupy Bristol has energised fight for justice
  1. lechatdargent
    January 14, 2012 | 9:26 pm

    Hi Gus

    I'll be facilitating the event next Saturday. I'd like to emphasise that the 21st Jan is a preparation event to hammer out isues around making subsequent Bristol 2050 events as accessible and smooth-running as possible. So it's a starter, not the main course!

    I have a blog post about it here: http://lechatdargent.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/occ

    I look forward to seeing you there!

    Simon

  2. Downwith#occupy
    January 13, 2012 | 12:07 pm

    Hi Bert,

    Pictures as requested:- http://blog.timparkinson.net/2011/09/30/lies-damn… – what makes me laugh if how the protesters are accusing the media of a cover up and lying and this comes to light. Ironic.

    Fair point on the tax evasion, but to be honest with you – 53% of those involved with the wall street occupation especially do not pay tax or have been avoiding tax themselves. A case of pot, kettle, black?

    I think it's unfair to say I've been blinkered into this – I've made my choice through reason, rather than blind acceptance of 'this is wrong'. My points still stand about the Bristol movement too. As in my previous post, I still think hiring a lobbying firm would have more of an influence in the issue of inequality than this has achieved.

  3. Bert
    January 13, 2012 | 10:34 am

    Dear 'Downwithoccupy',

    Good to see from your screen name that you have an open mind and are willing to debate something on its merits (or lack of them) rather than having a ossified opinion…

    "falsifed pictures of the wall street protest" – no idea what you are talking about, citation please!

    "The occupy worldwide 'movement' as you call it has achieved nothing." Pre-Occupy the issue of tax evasion, tax avoidance, and the concentration of wealth were only discussed, if ever, among the most committed of activists. Since occupy my *Nan* has started conversations with me about Goldman Sachs and Vodafone (and many of the rest of the wealthy) not paying their fair share of tax, and it has become part of everyday political discourse. You are vbeing willfully blinkered if you have not seen this. Do I agree with all of Occupy? No. Have they, on the whole, been a positive influence on raising the issue of growing inequality. Undoubtedly, yes.

  4. Downwith#occupy
    January 13, 2012 | 9:06 am

    "Yes you would like us to pack up and go away wouldn't you?"

    Yes. I would. From Wall street to Bristol, go home, assess what the hell you are doing with your life, DO YOUR HOMEWORK before taking up arms against 'the 1%' because let's face it, if you want to fight them it's going to have to be on their terms for it to be effective – or you end up looking like fools sitting in a park with a lot of empty tents.

    "Get your head out of the mud and stop whingeing about the grass."

    I think that's the least of the worries. You guys highlight the issue of natives that just want to sit around and not contribute to society and at the same time complaining about it. Hypocrites. If you honestly believe you've seen things change due to your actions, being a martyr to the cause isn't going to win you any favours.

    "Why should or would anyone representing Occupy say it was a waste of time? "

    Because noone is going to admit they've wasted months of their time living in cold damp squalor to achieve nothing.

    "Are you not aware of the expansive nature of Occupy Worldwide? Clearly not. Ignorance is no excuse."

    Don't be so patronising, you couldn't turn on the TV a few months back without seeing your falsifed pictures of the wall street protest, or the impotent fury of teenagers with nothing better to do with their lives.

    The occupy worldwide 'movement' as you call it has achieved nothing. Prove me wrong.

    The media reported the crap situation with the banks and financiers. You don't need to.

    I am also the 99%, and you idiots do not speak for me.

  5. Rich Fisher
    January 12, 2012 | 8:28 pm

    Yes you would like us to pack up and go away wouldn't you? Then you could pretend that all the injustices that Occupy stand against would go away. Get your head out of the mud and stop whingeing about the grass. Why should or would anyone representing Occupy say it was a waste of time? are you not aware of the expansive nature of Occupy Worldwide? Clearly not. Ignorance is no excuse.

  6. dpb
    January 12, 2012 | 8:08 pm

    I am glad to see Gus's article, which makes a lot of sensible points in my opinion. The protest may be messy, but it's nothing compared to the mess being made by massive corporations and banks with the help of the major parties, on so many ecological and social fronts. Occupy Bristol took an honourable stand and was a genuine local expression of a worldwide protest. It may be time to move on now but as a protest event it deserves respect, and will hopefully manifest in some new incarnation before long. There are massive national and international issues to be confronted and at least the protestors don't have their heads in the sand.

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