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Occupy London: Who Are the St Paul’s Protesters and What Do They Want?

Posted on the 18 October 2011 by Periscope

Occupy London: Who are the St Paul’s protesters and what do they want?

Occupy London, St Paul's Cathedral. Photo credit: Neil Cummings, http://flic.kr/p/awi9rK

Who are the protesters? It’s unclear whether The Daily Mail‘s Richard Littlejohn has actually attended the Occupy London protests; nevertheless, he has a clear picture of who the participants are: “The usual gormless rent-a-mob you always find on these anti-globalisation demos — Toytown Trots from Mickey Mouse universities, social workers, lecturers, full-time mature students and Swampy wannabes.” Oh, and some “layabouts.” By contrast, Polly Toynbee wrote on The Guardian’s Comment is Free that the people she met at the protests were of a variety of ages and backgrounds, and that most of them were in full-time employment: “The Swampy count is pretty low”, she said.

Mainstream. Indeed, Toynbee argued that the protesters’ proposals are far from “crazy anti-capitalism” but actually have a broad appeal, such as a refusal to accept cuts to public services as inevitable and demand for greater financial justice.

Derision to acceptance. Writing for The Huffington Post, Mark Donne suggested that the Occupy protests may follow the same path as the environmental movement, from initial derision in the press to widespread acceptance: “Slowly but surely the green movement grew, entered all of our homes and minds and is now hard wired into government policy”, he said.

Protesters don’t speak for everyone. However, a Commentator blog post questioned the “We are the 99 percent” message of the Occupy movement, and compared protesters to “totalitarians.”

Problem of globalisation. Writing for The Washington Post Opinions blog, Anne Applebaum suggested that the protesters are too focused on global change: “Democracy works only within distinct borders and among people who feel themselves to be part of the same nation. A ‘global community’ cannot be a national democracy”, she wrote. Applebaum argued that protesters should use existing national political structures if they are serious about effecting change: “Protesters in London shout, ‘We need to have a process!’ Well, they already have a process: It’s called the British political system.”

Problem of politics. But Javier Espinoza pointed out on The Wall Street Journal‘s The Source blog that many protesters feel alienated from national politics: “That feeling of being ‘left out’ is something that strikes a chord with many of the people in the encampment”, he wrote, after visiting the Occupy London camp at St Paul’s Cathedral.


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