The following is a press release put out today by Occupy Democracy - Parliament Square:
Twitter: #occupydemocracy / @occupydemocracy / @occupylondon
NB. Photographs, videos and film available
#occupydemocracy New Movement for Real Democracy Discusses Solutions and Strategy as 9-day Occupation of Parliament Square Enters Final Weekend
- Peaceful pro-democracy campaign continues to build despite over-policing and arrests
- Great photo opportunities in front of the Houses of Parliament
- Great speakers available for interview
The 9-day occupation of Parliament Square by peaceful pro-democracy protesters enters its final weekend with a packed two-day programme of speakers and discussions. The aim of the debates is to agree specific objectives and a strategy for escalating the campaign.
Numbers have grown over the course of the occupation despite up to 40 arrests and a massively disproportionate - and at times unnecessarily violent - policing operation for what, after all, is a peaceful pro-democracy protest.
Speakers this weekend include:
- Michael Meacher MP (Labour Party) on "The State We Need"
- Donnachadh McCarthy (whistle-blowing Liberal Democrat and author of newly published The Prostitute State) on "Why We Need A 21st Century Reform Act"
- Sarah Allan (constitutional convention campaigner) on "Why we Need a People's Constitutional Convention" and
- Jolyon Rubinstein (presenter of BBC3's "The Revolution Will Be Televised") on "Why We Need a Magna Carter 2.0"
Occupier John Sinha said: "This weekend is dedicated to an open democratic process where we will decide what we want and how we move forward with our movement for real democracy. Our central message - that the authorities have tried to crush - is that our democracy is not working for the 99% and is in need of urgent radical reform."
The debates this week have attracted celebrities like Russell Brand, Ken Loach and Vivienne Westwood as well as speakers from many supporting civil society groups including Friends of the Earth, UK Uncut, World Development Movement, War on Want, Fuel Poverty Action, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Defend the Right to Protest, Stop the War, Left Unity, OurNHS, Stroud Against the Cuts, New Economics Foundation, Robin Hood Tax, Green New Deal Group, Save Lewisham Hospital and One Million Climate Jobs.
Occupier George Barda said:
"There are clear messages that unite this movement. First we need a Real Democracy, rather than the sham politics of powerful undemocratic economic interests that fund all the major parties. Second, there is an alternative. We need a massive ecological investment programme that revitalises local economies and restores vibrant communities. This will only happen if more of us remember our power as citizens, and organise to transform the national conversation, so we can elect real representatives that could offer real alternatives to the gush-up of money and political power, and an unstable unsustainable economy built on bubbles. Join us."
Quotes from speakers throughout the week:
Natalie Bennett (Green Party) noted that we haven't seen any improvement in democracy for 100 years:
"The last real reform was in 1918, which was women getting the vote. What we're calling for is a People's Constitutional Convention where people from across Britain draw up a new constitution for Britain."
John McDonnell MP (Labour Party) said:
"People are waking up to the fact that we are not living in a democracy but a kleptocracy. Corporations and rich individuals use their power, their influence and the state to steal from us. Since 2008 people who are rich and the corporations have used the crisis not just to ensure that ordinary people pay for it, but also to shift wealth and power back into their own hands."
Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) said that the attitude of MPs when it came to serious issues was sometimes "childish, ridiculous and irresponsible":
"We have a crisis in our democracy. The fact that serious issues like the climate crisis or alternatives to austerity aren't being debated over there [in Parliament] I think is a shame on the whole political system. We have an electoral system that is precisely designed to keep out alternative voices and to make sure that essentially the big parties have a cartel and a monopoly over poltical debate. We need a fairer voting system and a genuine system of recall for MPs."
Asad Rehman (Friends of the Earth) noted how David Cameron was representing the interests of corporations' interests rather than the public interest in the negotiations over the EU climate and energy package this week:
"They force people with disablilities to go through humiliating tests to decide if they can get benefits yet they have no problem handing out millions to big oil and fracking companies."
Melanie Strickland (Occupy Law) outlined how our legal system routinely gives more rights to corporations than to citizens:
"Corporate interests are so embedded into the structure of law that private property interests routinely override fundamental rights, like the right to a healthy environment. The law legitimises the exploitation of our planet and communities, and permits corporations to pollute our bodies. We cannot say no to fracking, no to GM food, no to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, no to NHS privatisation, or to other abuses. The State has no legitimate authority to permit others to carry out such abuses, nor itself to trade away our fundamental rights as citizens."
John Hilary (Executive Director, War on Want) argued that we must replace unrestrained capitalism with popular sovereignty, common ownership and social production:
"Popular sovereignty means reclaiming and restoring democracy at its roots. You can look to the examples of countries like Iceland or Tunisia or Equador or Bolivia, which have completely re-written constitutions in order to be able to give the people’s aspirations top billing. You can also see it in countries like Venezuala where they have local municipal committees, workplace committees, bringing people in to the democratic space and building from the grassroots. You can see it in the economic policies of restoring power to cooperatives and other collective engagements of people, so that they take control of the economic space as well as the political space."