Friday, 21 October 2016

Thank You Occupy... 5 years on

Thank you Occupy…

For cold nights on hard ground in harsh conditions
For hunger and sleep-deprivation
For damp clothes and difficult sanitation
For harsh words from blunt people
For sharp realisations that cut me to my core
and most of all… for helping me lose my way.

I went on 15 October 2011 to Occupy the London Stock Exchange as a response to my own personal ‘enough is enough’ moment. Having seen events unfolding across the world with the Arab Spring, Indignados, Occupy Wall Street, I recognised the struggle within my own interpretation of the world I was living in; the one where education and health were seen to be market commodities rather that logically beneficial and essential; the one where too many in government, entertained lobbyists from industry and later ended up on their boards of directors and we were supposed to pretend that no favours were done; the one where bailing out bankers went hand in hand with cutting disability benefits; the one where the arms trade emanating out of my own country, meant that from my taxes, I paid to kill people and in none of the wars we started or armed, was there an ounce of honourable purpose… and then there was the deadly foolishness of keeping alive industries that should long ago have died but were clinging to us in a death spiral of fossilised pollution and waste that was overflowing into the bodies of our young.

There was a Facebook page already set up for the London Event and I took a click into commitment before going to read up on the international site ‘Meet Up’ about other Occupy events happening in the world. The London event was not listed but I saw a link that said: ‘If you’re holding an Occupy in your town or city, please place the details here’ and thinking I’d be useful, copied details from the Facebook page and put them in there.

Two days before our Occupy, I got a call from the mainstream US news company CNBC, asking if I’d be available for an interview the next morning on the ‘Squawk Box’ financial programme. Having never done media and having no contact with a single other person going to Occupy or involved in any of the planning, I was perplexed and asked why they’d called me. They pointed out that they wanted to interview the ‘Organiser of Occupy London’ and that according to the ‘Meet Up’ site, that was me!

I explained how wrong they were but they didn’t have anyone else to talk to at this late stage and said would I do it anyway and they’d help with my travel to get me there on the 14th. Reluctant, as I’d never done media before and felt a total fraud as I had no part in planning, I agreed only if they would ensure they made it clear that I was just another regular citizen who was going. I went, said no to the nice make-up lady with her glossy red lipstick and answered fast-fired questions. I didn’t embarrass myself and there started the journey.

A young man came up to me on the first day of Occupy to say his mum who was house-bound, had seen me on CNBC and told him he had to come and thank me; I was so moved in what would be the first of many encounters with strangers that would warm my heart, lift my spirits and give me the confidence to know that my concerns and actions, were not completely off the wall. Life before Occupy had been pretty standard fare by comparison; job, family, travel, consumption and only vexing the times of anguish in essays and poems.

What did Occupy give me? It gave me revelations:

…that when on passing through the door to activism, that I had been in the wrong room all this time and that there are so many more doors ahead

…that people contain the greatest gifts and it is in the whispers that you find the wisdom and the screams that you understand the pain

…that when you strip us of our trappings, our luxuries, our social status – that we find ourselves, in each other.

Each week that I came to stay for 3-4 days (going home in-between to earn enough for fares and touch base with loved ones), always involved a leap of faith when I arrived; the bit where I’d commit to the hardships of the reality of the conditions and more importantly, where I’d fall into a place of strangeness and strangers and just trust that all would be ok. Every night I spent in a tent at St Paul’s and every day I absorbed wisdom in our Tent City University and every conversation with a stranger in-between, was a treasure that would teach me more in a few months than life and travel had in nearly five decades. There wasn’t a single conversation that was small-talk.

None of this though is really past tense for me or many others I know from that enigmatic time and place… Occupy was where I discovered the tools in myself that would power me through the rest of my life in ways that felt more genuinely me. I don’t think it was the incidents and circumstance alone though, not simply the hand waving, mike-check-calling, tent-living, issue-confronting, stranger-appreciating that caused the change in me, I think it was the act of choosing to be there that did this.

When I got home from Occupy London, a public information booklet about fracking had been sent to residents in Blackpool… rather wish it hadn’t! I am now part of the phenomenal UK anti-fracking movement that has grown from just three groups back then, to more than 500 now. Having toured the country and been part of the public meetings, demonstrations and actions that grew us, I can fairly safely guess that this movement is maybe 80% new activists – people who due to the immediate and now obvious threat, have come to their own ‘enough is enough’ moment and are standing for the first time to oppose authority in defence of their families, communities and futures.

Those tools Occupy gave me meant that rather than tell anyone how to do their activism, we delivered what I call
The Unwelcome Giftof Truth to communities and then asked only that they please act individually and together to find out more and respond. I didn’t want to say ‘save the planet’, that was too big an ask, nor did I want to tell them that along the way, all their original beliefs would come crashing down and that before it got clear and the self-empowerment kicked in – it would be a bit awful, isolating and crushingly real. There was no need to say though because I knew that once they started tackling this ONE issue, they would discover that the media lies (and come to ask themselves, what was ever true?), their MPs serve their party not the people, their Councillors are ill-informed and mostly powerless, lobbyists from industries as big as the energy sector, have the power to change our politics and laws and that THIS is NOT what democracy looks like.

Symptoms lead back to Disease

Fracking is a symptom of a diseased system – just as wars for power, resources and profit are, just as privatisation of the things generations have paid for is, just as monopolisation of the media message is, just as the denial of new de-centralised technologies is... Fracking though is a great big ugly boil of a thing that touches everyone because it impacts air and water and therefore the health of our young; the one symptom that we each have a stake in curing. The act of standing with others in our communities, dropping social boundaries and getting on with dealing with this emergency, allows the gradual realisation of the presence of the disease of the system and the urgent need to act. Fracking explains Occupy in ways we couldn’t from our tents.

Thankfully, along the way are many gifts and little miracles that nourish; I’ve watched the coldest hearts melt when they realised they were amidst community – not just alongside humans with differences… seen the poorest in self-worth, grow rich with empowerment and seen each find that ‘purpose’ trumps consumption every time.

Occupy thrives it just isn’t contained in one place anymore… it is in the flicking of the switch inside each person that turns on self-empowerment and the realisation that the greatest weapon we have, is a little bucket of truth. 

Thank you Occupy.

With love and gratitude,

Tina Louise

Monday, 17 October 2016

Court & Prison Postponed

UPDATE on court appearance:

People have got the power... and the people online created such a fuss that I received the following letter... CANCELLING my court appearance on Wednesday 19 Oct 2016 in Blackpool.

It may not be over and just a pause or perhaps... who knows but the words on the document say this:

[Upon the court considering the safety and security issues which may arise at the hearing of 19th October 2016 and being advised that the Court at Blackpool may not be an appropriate venue IT IS ORDERED THAT:

The hearing listed on 19 October 2016 be adjourned to a date to be fixed at a venue to be fixed. Dated 13 October 2016]

That's all - so although not necessarily out of the woods, certainly the power of people sharing and planning to attend has forced the court to halt this... for now. I could not be more grateful and relieved that prison is not this week - thank you,

*Biggest thanks to George Brown for creating events like I am Tina Too as well as In Style at Styal that raised awareness of the abuse of justice and intimidation of an activist - designed to deter others and not to really apply true justice or law x

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Back off Cuadrilla...

My tone is changing and it’s strange to sense it happening… just now the two journalists called to chat about “where we’re at here in Lancashire, how the community is coping, how do people feel and how about the court case etc.” My answers came from a different place than before the government decision to drill the democracy right out of Lancashire; to do anything they see fit because they can tear up our planning refusals, dismiss those pesky local concerns and ignore completely the call for a Frack Free Lancashire… there’s a roar building now and it’s ominous. You could hear its early rumble on Saturday at the gathering to acknowledge our determination to not be deterred by this government decision. The community I was amongst on Saturday was as always, comprised of some of the most glorious people you could hope to meet and are honoured (thanks to fracking?!) to call friend… smiles, good humour, tea, cake, merchandise, hi-viz organisational types, cheery chaos amidst attempts to heroically find order (cat herding skills in poor supply in Lancashire lol) and warm concern on every smiling but tired face. We are weary and somehow, in that weariness, is a power source that is fuelling this community and it’s superbly contagious. One hour in the company of activists is like a shot of rocket fuel that powers for many times more than the charge. There were moments yes where the true shape of the growing roar could be glimpsed; at the gate of the landowner’s house where we pushed unexpectedly, unplanned and yet entirely natural to that moment and that mood. The gate was the steam valve and proved, for some of us, essential. I was at the front and although order, peace, calm determination are my heartfelt way – I was raging and ‘There are many many more of us than you” was a chant that roared easily from my lips and in that moment, meant its threatening tone. We sang at Big Dan’s calling of the lines to “ People got the Power” – and we meant that too because we could feel the power of our anger and its promise of more. My sincerest hope at this time is that Cuadrilla start picturing that which is inside of us, the bit that stands on the path in front of the children and says “You will not pass” and you KNOW we mean this. Back off Cuadrilla… you won’t like us when we’re angry. Your move.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Beyond Reasonable...

We find ourselves on the closing page of the chapter – the one where ‘reasonable’ was the key theme.

The government & industry had the chance to deal with reasonable people, engage in reasonable debate, discussion and knowledge sharing; without agenda or bias. Instead they chose propaganda, spin, PR, marketing, bribes (they call it sponsorship), sharply tailored reports paid for with industry money and slander and attack on those who questioned their story.

The government & industry had the chance to accept the reasoned findings of a local parish, borough and county council, that along with many in the community, said no to fracking. Instead they chose to make those council officers impotent – to deny them a voice as they deny the community ours. They told us this decision was too big for us and that only Westminster could decide what risks would be taken with the health of the children of Lancashire.

The government & industry has gambled it all and decided they’re willing to put our children as chips on the table. They are drilling the democracy right out of Lancashire in order to clear the way for this risky business. For those responsible for young ones (I thinks that’s about all of us)… we stand between the frackers and our children and nothing will make us step aside and take this gamble with them. Nothing.

So ‘reasonable’ has been exhausted, drained and laid to rest as before us lies a great unknown – the place where the rules of engagement afforded by democracy, are now done with. I can’t find a chapter-guide for this bit. 

I read a line yesterday that said:
Riot is the language of the unheard.

I wouldn’t have even understood what that could mean just a few years ago. I didn’t know this rage, this obligation, this way. It’s a loose and wild guess but I figure from visiting frack-free groups throughout the UK, that our movement is roughly 80% brand-new to campaigning, activists. People who had not had cause or occasion to object before. People who are all asking themselves, what comes next? What am I able to do? How much can I take? What choices are there? What the hell am I doing….

I had only a modicum of a head start on activism; having gone down to Occupy and learned more over three months than I had my entire life… around the time that fracking was coming very slowly into view in 2011.  But what I learned in Tent City University was not about this, about what we currently face – I didn’t find out about fracking till I came home to Blackpool. I learned amazing things about people who became active… and about my self; how wrong I’d been in my assumptions and judgements, how much my fellow humans could inspire me and that there was often more to be heard in a whisper, than a shout. There was realisation too… that there was a door marked activism and once you walked through it… you realised firstly that you’d been in the wrong room all this time and secondly… that there are a lot more doors.

So here we all find ourselves on the eve of the next chapter and at the tail end of days of media frenzy. The old traditional media hounded us for opportunities to film and document the ‘moment you find out if they’re going to frack’ – a perverse desire to stare into the eyes of the grieving, the broken, the exhausted – like some side-show. I’ve seen press over the years that allowed itself to frame us as ‘emotional’ ‘scaremongers’ ‘nervous nellies’ ‘luddites’ ‘eco terrorist’ …and now they want to stare into our souls. We’d all have preferred they used the air time to highlight some of the truly key points in the nearly 900 peer-reviewed studies into the risks of shale but that’s not their gig. And while we’re on it, there’s nothing wrong with having emotion – it’s honest.

So who are we then… the campaigners? Here in Lancashire I’m with those who struggle to find time but still do even as they dash off to collect children from school, to care for elderly relatives, to manage businesses and families… the campaigners who send apologies to a meeting because they had to give a kidney to a sibling but would be back as quick as possible and another who asked if the next meeting could be held in the Chemo Suite at the hospital as she was key to the plans but booked for cancer treatment… the campaigners who grieved while we marched and campaigned because the one we lost would have been so angry if we hadn’t carried on in her name, the campaigners who like all who do this stuff… are acting from the best of themselves, their obligations.

The media this week always asked:
What will you do now and will you break the law?

For me, I feel I’d need a really lengthy chat about Law before being able to honestly answer. Right now for instance, the Law tells us that challenging this decision can only be limited to a point of law or procedural error – what about outright dishonesty, corruption and bias? Is that not covered by our laws? I’m in court on 19 Oct to face a charge of contempt of court, that for me is actually reflective of my contempt of abuse of justice system by Cuadrilla… there are no laws to help me with moral conviction, there is no box that can be ticked in law and so therefore I am apparently un-lawful. So Law… who the hell does it work for? Those with money are using it as a tool to deter activism in my case and to bypass democracy in our county case. So would I break the law? I want to say that maybe the law deserves a good breaking – but I’m in enough trouble with it.

Easier perhaps to say that none wish to be made criminal by this situation or  to see it escalate… but we WILL stand in self-defence for our families and communities against what we know to be certain harm.

Tomorrow we gather to have a huge discussion about what next. We have had a genuinely reasonable and fair relationship with the local Lancashire police – unique for those of us who experienced Balcombe and Barton Moss as well as London actions. Our local force has been mainly the same faces for 5 years now and they are very aware of our reasonable behaviour as well as our exhaustive lawful attempts to be heard. They know us to be parents, employers, residents… as well as activists and… like our local media, who too have journeyed with us on this heck of a ride, we are all reaching the same milestones. I don’t want any of this to change… but everything WILL change because the government just silenced us and is telling us to act negligently in our responsibilities as parents.

 I think this next chapter’s key themes may just be Empowerment & Rearranging Hierarchies

…whatever happens next will come from the best of people so I have complete faith that we will find our way to defeat what is clearly acting from the worst of itself -  government & industry.

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Nana statement about today's decision to overrule Lancashire County Council's rejection of planning permission for fracking in Lancashire:

[This ruling is called 'landmark' and for us it certainly is: it is a landmark moment that reveals the willingness of our government to gamble with our childrens' futures - it marks the point where our local Councillors have been rendered impotent - it marks the point where 'local democracy' was shown to be a myth and it marks the day when our hopes that we had of a voice and choices in our own lives, were extinguished. The Prime Minister said she wanted a society fairer for all ...where's the fairness for Lancashire Theresa? You've made clear we truly aren't 'all in this together'.

The Nanas will not be standing aside and letting Cuadrilla pass into the paths of our families. We have exhausted every option available to us in this democracy ...our obligation remains to ensure the health and wellbeing of our children. How this plays out? We are still working out but we do know, it no longer involves bright yellow tabards, tea, cake and smiles... as Nanas put it as we dressed in black "The oven gloves are off".

On Saturday at 10am we will gather with other groups at Maple Farm (on Preston New Road next door to World of Water) - just a field away from the site earmarked for fracking.]

Lancashire Responds  - #WeSaidNo #DontFrackLancs

Will we thrive, die or barely survive?

The photo states a fact... plain, simple, unavoidably true. Sadly we're in a world where it's politics that dictates ...