Monday, April 16, 2012

We've Moved!

We're going to merge our blogger with that of Occupy the South-West of England. The new blog will contain news from not only Occupy Exeter but the other local camps in the region as well. See you all there!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This weekend!

Catch as from 11-2 this Friday on the High Street! Come down for a chat and to hear what we've been up to. This is going to be a regular Friday event this month from what I've gathered.

Our friends at Bookcycle need some volunteers to load some books and other educational materials for children in Ghana. That's happening Friday from 12.30 to 4.30 at their warehouse on Water Lane.

We also have this happening next Tuesday. All for our very wonderful NHS!

Of course we have our usual general assembly at Friday 6pm at Friend's Meeting House (followed by a film screening!) and we're trying a new time and place for GAs. Saturdays 2pm in Bedford Square!

And happy International Women's Day!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Open Letter to Martin Shaw

Yesterday, I came across a very reasonable and well-thought out Facebook post by Martin Shaw, a (correct me if I'm wrong) Bishop for the Scottish Episcopal Church. I thought I'd make a response, not on behalf of or representing Occupy Exeter as a whole, but merely as an individual supporter and activist within the movement. It would be great if other occupiers could write opinion pieces for our Blogger as well in the future. Anyway, I'll copy and paste the post below, and follow it with my personal response. :)
"Some days ago, you posted through letter-boxes a paper on some of the issues related to 'Occupy'. Although I am deeply anxious along with many about the financial climate and culture adopted by financial services in the UK, I wonder whether you had read what you wrote before you distributed the sheets.

The negative attitude towards the clergy of whom you write raises the question whether you have listened to any of them with any depth of empathy, let alone get your facts even approximately right. Your statement "Jesus occupies your rotten hearts"....such language is not only deeply sad, but certainly does not attract many to do anything other than be sucked into such destructive language themselves or, like me, be alienated by it.

Please try a different attitude and you may draw more not only to understand your sometimes courageous stance but also to thinking through and acting in a way that shows the commercial world an alternative and creative style of life.

If you had really listened and got alongside the clergy of whom you speak, you would moved forward with many more voices and lives, including mine, empathetic towards you and supportive of you.

I remain challenged by 'Occupy' generally and ask you to have a view of your actions and words that seem to me to do you little or no service.

In the Love of God,

Dear Martin Shaw,
I hope you don't mind the format I've chosen to write to you, but I believe it's an ideal opportunity to discuss the issues you've raised in a way that is entirely open, transparent, and can include people in and outside of Exeter regardless of their faith and feelings towards the Occupy movement.
I should emphasise that the leaflet that was distributed that included 'Jesus occupies your rotten heart' was not published by Occupy Exeter. One of the first things we agreed as a movement was that all our publications needed to be approved by the group as a whole (through our general assemblies) before it would be regarded as Occupy Exeter literature. The leaflet was not approved by the general assembly, and was made and distributed by an individual supporter who had the best of intentions of trying to do what he could to contribute to the movement and spent several hundred pounds of his own money on printing costs. However, once he realised that the content of the leaflet was alienating to many people he quickly stopped posting the leaflets at our request.
Occupy Exeter and the Cathedral did have a very strained relationship, especially towards the end of our presence on Cathedral Green. I believe that there is a lot that members of both Occupy and the Cathedral could have done better. For example, Occupy Exeter struggled to ensure that anti-social behaviour on the Green was minimal, but at the same time I personally believe that the Cathedral could have done more to support the Occupation in that capacity rather than leaving us to deal with those issues with very few resources or the social support skills to handle anti-social behaviour. Communication between both groups was poor at times, but there was a joint effort to solve that by Occupy having a Cathedral liaison group and various clergymen visiting the site itself. The issue of our presence on the Green and then the eviction process served as a major distraction and hindrance to having constructive dialogues on the bigger social, economic and political issues which both the Cathedral and Occupy share common ground on. Now that we have left Cathedral Green there is a window of opportunity to build, or rather rebuild bridges and get the focus back on making the world a fairer, more equitable place.
And indeed, we've been reaching out to various religious groups including the United Reformed Church in Southernhay and a number of us attended a talk at Exeter University by Bishop Michael Langrish last week.
There's no denying that individuals within Occupy consider established religion as being part of the 1%, but there are also devout Christians, Muslims, Jews, people from a whole variety of faiths within the movement. Despite these differences within the Occupy movement, we don't let that be a source of division or tribalism. We celebrate the diversity of opinion and faith that's integral to the community that's sprung out of the Occupy movement, and I don't believe there's any reason the same can't be true between Occupy and religious institutions.
So I invite you to join us at one of our general assemblies or working group meetings, and we can get back to the big issues and developing ideas for how to address them. Times and locations can be found here (link)
I hope this has cleared things up and reconciled these issues to a degree. Maybe see you at one of our meetings in the near future!
Yours Sincerely,

This week!

We have our general assemblies for the next wee while at the usual times and places. In about an hour's time at John Gandy's, Tuesday 6pm at the NBI, Friday 6pm at Friend's Meeting House, and John Gandy's 2pm on the following Sunday.

Our newly-formed newsletter working group will be meeting straight after GA on Tuesday. Come along to contribute to our first issue!

Our direct action working group is meeting 6pm at the Imperial (pub on New North Road) on Monday, and the 'public eye' meeting is on Wednesday, 4pm at the NBI.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The NHS event for the 25th has had the date changed to the 7th to coincide with similar events in London and across the nation as a whole in protest against the semi-privatisation of the NHS, and to give us time to prepare for it better!

In other news, it's been a fantastic few days for Occupy Exeter! First of all, the Bishop of Exeter gave a talk at the university which was attended by a number of Occupiers. They grilled the bishop on the Church of England's response to the Occupy movement, and on the capitalist economic system.

This evening we had a general assembly which had an excellent turnout, and we had some great discussions about how the Plymouth movement is doing, on the idea of a regional Occupy conference, and on the NHS event.

Speaking of which, our very own Jake Céileachair chaired an event at the central library tonight which was about keeping the NHS public and had speakers from Occupy Exeter, Unison, Anti-Cuts Alliance, and KONP. Occupy Exeter's speaker, Stephen Bench, summed it up quite nicely by saying the speaking event was a great opportunity to talk about what each of our movements have in common, how we stand in solidarity with each other, and how we can support each other in the ongoing struggle against the cuts and the underlying economic system that caused the crisis.

There's still plenty going on later this week! On Wednesday at 1pm, the Student Action Committee is meeting at the Imperial to discuss the upcoming National Union of Students walkout. At 4pm later that day in the NBI, there's the ever-popular Outreach working group meeting. Thursday boasts an NBI meeting at 7pm about acquiring a site for Occupy Exeter legally. On Friday, our general assembly is (as usual) at Friend's Meeting House at 6pm - followed by a film screening of the Matrix.

We've also got an 'Extraordinary GA' to discuss the future of Occupy Exeter on Saturday at 2pm. Watch this space for final confirmation of the location.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Upcoming Events!

We have lots in store this upcoming week!

Monday 20th - our local bishop is giving a talk on the ethics of capitalism and wealth creation at the university. Plan is for Occupy to meet at the Imperial at 6pm to head to it as a group. Great opportunity to grill a senior clergyman who's been outspoken against Occupy Exeter in the past.

Tuesday 21st February - General Assembly at the North Bridge Inn (which I thoroughly recommend as a chilled, relaxed and affordable place to drink that does wonderful mulled cider) at 6pm.

At 7, there'll be an event at Exeter central library about the cuts - particularly the reorganising gutting and flogging-off of the NHS by the government. We'll also be discussing what to do for the event on Saturday (details below!). 

On Wednesday 22nd, we have the meeting of the outreach working group. Again, it'll be at the North Bridge Inn at 4pm. Lots of fun, mulled cider, and discussion for how to engage with the public.

Saturday 25th, there'll be a protest happening at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital starting at 10am. Here's what the Facebook event says about it:

We will be outside RDE to raise awareness of the alternatives to the public sector cuts, whilst at the same time telling the public what OUR governments plans for NHS reform are. Together the 99% can keep the NHS public, IT IS NOT FOR SALE!

Full details will be released in the weeks running up to the action. but here is a basic outline
Arrive at the hospital at 10am. We will be in a visual but (as much as possible) a non intrusive location at RDE. Throughout the day there will be leaflets and information distributedThere will also be special visits during the day from dressed up campers with a great message. All public sector workers will get a free hug on there way into or out of work as a thank you for the hard work they put in.Other things will take place throughout the day, but this is not a shouty protest...more like the best info stand you have ever seen.

Make sure to bring a banner or two!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sheffield National Conference

Sheffield National Conference

On arrival

The camp was located outside Sheffield Cathedral. The occupiers barricaded themselves into the sites with the back of their tents, pallets, railings, other building materials, etc. Signs and posters were put up on the outside of the white marquee so passers-by could read them. Pallet beds and tents within tents helped prepare the camp for winter. They also had a fire in the central open area with a kitchen tent and the communal white marquee on the sides. Being fortified helped them deal with difficult behaviour and turn away visibly drunk people before they had a chance to enter the site.
The Citadel of Hope was being tidied up when we arrived. We helped carry dirt and debris out of the site to be binned. The building had toilets, a large downstairs meeting hall & kitchen, and upstairs was a theatre!
The first evening was spent deciding the agenda for Saturday, lots of familiar faces from the Edinburgh conference.
Quite a lot of tech imported from Occupy LSX – rooted android phone working a bit like an internet router, 
HD spy toy helicopter, and 3D printers (think replicators from Star Trek).

“Big Occupy”

Saturday started with going around each of the sites to get an update on what’s happening in the world of Occupy. Delegates attended from occupations in Exeter, Sheffield, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sydney, Geneva, Norwich, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Lancaster, Worthing, Brighton, York, Nottingham, Leeds, the Netherlands, Darlington, Stratford-upon-Avon and Bristol. A huge increase from the 9 camps represented at the Edinburgh conference.
Chinese village of Wukan overthrew the Communist Party back in September. First time anything like that’s happened. Occupy World of Warcraft & Occupy Second Life have happened. ‘Hopupy’ which travels between occupations to boost morale happening.
4th February is meant to be a big celebration day for the Occupy movement, which is also International library day.
Lots of camps are facing evictions, and relatively speaking Exeter Cathedral have been very tolerant of us. Strategy of ‘unadulterated, non-violent, non-cooperation’ suggested. St. Paul’s case can be a template for other Occupy court cases. Legally speaking, the right to protest exists to the extent where it causes minimal inconvenience. Proving the location isn’t a nuisance is essential to not being evicted.
Occupy 1.0 – internal camp issues, evictions
Occupy 2.0 – eviction cannot stop us! – site about where Occupy can go from here. Use the Occupywiki!
Sunny times ahead! Just make sure we come out of our evictions well.
Occupy wants to be involved with International Women’s Day, May Day, and International Workers’ Day.
Some camps sending people into schools, organising kids so they hold their own junior GA.
Moderated live streams of national and international conferences are the future.
International conference happening 9-11 March in Brussels. Meetings also happening in Rome, Madrid and Athens. March from Madrid to Athens taking place, in Rome now and due to arrive in Athens in time for the conference.
Protests now de-facto illegal in Chile
Online TV channel – Occupy Mexico
Bolivia – war now unconstitutional & natural environment has rights thanks to mass movements with general assemblies, consensus politics, etc
Occupy Wall Street working well with local unions, working towards Occupy Congress, Occupy New Hampshire primaries,
Occupy Johannesburg taken a squat
OWS Making Worlds Conference 16-18 February
Occupy had fun with a flash Occupy the Vatican, GA then held in Rome
Plan for Earth Day?
NATO & G8 summits later this year, Occupy Chicago up to something =)
Wikipedia blackout – maybe Occupy can adopt similar tactics to protest against SOPA (oh yeah, congress changed their mind so the bill wasn’t passed. We won!)
‘Black March’ – some people not buying anything copyrighted that month – weekly roundtable meetings Thursday 7.30
Occupy Moscow – holding negotiations with Occupy Wall Street for a program of nuclear disarmament
Haiti supports Occupy! Lawyer in Haiti taking the UN to court over the mess they made with the cholera epidemic in Haiti
May to have a Fortnight of Action (1st – Int. Workers Day, 7th – May Day, 12-15th birthday of Spanish Indignados). Exeter can organise own events for most of that, protest every day, send a delegation to London for the 15th

Climate Caravan – film screenings, panels, discussions, touring occupations in May. Details and dates need to be worked out.

“Little Occupy”

How can Exeter better reach out to the people of Exeter?
Focusing on specific local issues, making sure there are people “front of house” on the path. Be careful not to give too much or too little info. Regular events an essential.
Organisations like churches, Greenpeace and the Woodcraft Folk natural allies
Even Daily Mail readers are in the 99%. Talk to people on the Right as well as the Left, focus on commonalities.
Having celebrities on-board *can* be useful, but only if they genuinely take part in the democratic process rather than as a gimmicky PR stunt
Training people on how to talk to the public a great idea
Be careful not to give the wrong impression, the “We are the 99%” slogan can be misinterpreted as saying we claim to directly represent everyone which can come across as presumptuous to people who don’t understand the economics in the slogan.
People like to be listened to when they talk to Occupiers, not lectured.
Sending people to other camps as “ambassadors” means we can mooch ideas and they can mooch us back.
Visuals and keeping written info up-to-date important
“Stop looking inward, start looking outward” – Occupy 2.0. Diverse outreach groups. Opportunity to be a hub for sympathetic and supportive groups.
Our message, because it’s so broad, is flexible so we have a unique opportunity to bring people from across the political spectrum on board.

 “Inner Occupy”

You’d think larger camps would tend to have more issues with metatalking, internal communications, etc. but it’s equally a problem for smaller camps. When these issues boil over you can lose members of the occupation which even on a small scale is disastrous in smaller camps
Keep to time on agenda items, train facilitators by cofacilitating experienced and inexperienced members.
Occupy 2.0 an opportunity to keep the protest moving without getting bogged down with camp issues that come with an entirely open site. There needs to be a safe workspace for WGs, workshops, the free university, people who are burned out etc.
Indymedia worth looking into. Using things like Piratepad to communicate within the camp a handy tool.
On communication, making sure that decisions made by the GA are carried out is so, so Important. Asking someone who’s assigned a job how it’s going is a great step. Regular reports to the GA from WGs also good. We have the potential to be a fantastic occupation but each component part needs to be moving in the same direction for that to happen. Lose the ego, jealousy, hatred, tribalism and cliques that we’re constantly in danger of sinking into. Each camp needs to be built on trust, honesty, respect, peace, love, freedom, and other buzzwords like that.
We need to ask ourselves what makes a good GA, and what makes a good facilitator

So in conclusion…

Communication needs to be worked on massively and we don’t want to get bogged down with site issues and evictions. These challenges are an opportunity in disguise, and evictions can be carried out in a way that works for us provided we’re organised, sincere and committed to making it so.
Message of solidarity to Sheffield central library for letting us use their computers for free and sending vital information in time for Saturday’s GA.