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Occupy Protest (Exeter, UK)

I was working in Exeter today, so on a break I strolled over to see what this regional protest is about and chat to a few people there. (Exeter is the regional capital of SW England)
Please excuse the poor pics, I only had my phone on me.

The protest, which claims allegiance to the international Occupy demonstrations, has found an unwelcome home in the grounds of Exeter Cathedral, a beautiful 600 year old building in the center of the city...

Below is a mixture of tents for sleeping, meetings, field kitchen, and a composting toilet.
The main signs in the next pic say "Occupy Exeter" and "We are the 99%"

Before I approached the site I sat listening to an argument from one of the tents housing two people who obviously disagreed with each other, very foul language was being used and it appeared to be ignored by the other protesters. I ignored it myself (and the 4 scabby looking dogs tied up with rope) then approached to have a chat with anyone who wanted to.

Within seconds I was asked for cigarettes by 4 different folk who I could only say had the appearance of classic substance abuse. Not a problem, I worked with addicts for years so I remained indifferent to this observation.
We got chatting and these are snippets of my brief question and answer session:

So, what's this all about then?

"We're fighting back against the unfair system."
"Stop student fees."
"Tax the rich banksters, share the wealth."

The system has never been fair and this protest isn't going to change it, why not start a new 'Occupy political party' and get the votes to change the system from within?

"The system is corrupt, they'd never allow it"
"The time for action is now!"
"People are too lazy to vote"
"You trust our elections? ...get real and read a bit more mate!"

Why are you camping here at the cathedral and not down the road in the finance district?

"We'll get moved on quick from there"
"This is a nice place to get our message across"

What is your message then? What specific changes do you want, strong socialism, communism?

"A fairer system where the 1% don't have it all while we have nothing"

[I asked for more clarification but was met by faces which I assumed were struggling to find a specific plan]

At this point a guy came over to me after noticing my work clothes, declaring that he was an out of work plasterer, painter and decorator. We spoke for a few minutes and it turned out he joined the 'protest' when he arrived homeless in the city after travelling here from his home town on the other side of the country.
He started blaming the worlds banks for his problems, and being self employed in the building game myself I empathised that there is not a huge amount of work around at the moment.
I asked him if he'd approached any of the nearby sites for even temporary day work - the answer was no.
I asked him if he thought it likely that he would find much work while spending all his time at this protest - the reply included far too much foul language to be repeated here, but he basically declared me to be 'part of the brainwashed masses' and 'a tool of the machine' whatever that means.

I admit I laughed and wished him luck when Exeter council gets the court order to shift their scruffy shanty town - I also advised him that people would take a spokesperson for a protest far more seriously if they don't stink of booze like he did, and whatever the rights and wrongs of the current economic system, he should be glad he lives in the UK version and not some other poor country where poverty does not mean having a iphone (which he had) and money to spend on alcohol.

Hmm, I guess if our interaction had been online I would be labelled a troll Laughing

This is all anecdotal of course, but when any protest fails to offer one serious solution to their issues, I'm afraid it loses credibility in my mind.

2 blog comments below

I am amazed that the church allows those booze hounds to stay there and ugly their absolutely beautiful Cathedral.
As for the Plaster and any of the other 'lazy' fools, I only have one thing to say - "Get a job!" Jobs are out there if you look and are 'willing' to actually work.
standready on Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:45 pm
standready wrote:
I am amazed that the church allows those booze hounds to stay there and ugly their absolutely beautiful Cathedral.

This is the most recent statement published on the cathedral website:

Exeter Cathedral wrote:

11th November 2011

As you know, the Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly these form the basis for your right to gather with others and protest.

While we would rather you did not occupy our land and we do not give you permission to do so, nevertheless, we acknowledge your right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly. While you are on Cathedral property there are some things of which you should be aware:

The Cathedral and its precincts are religious and sacred spaces and the majority of the Cathedral Green is a burial ground and therefore should be respected accordingly.

We have a school on site with a large number of pupils moving to and from the Cathedral on a daily basis we would therefore ask that you apply the standards of common decency throughout your time here.

For Health and Safety reasons there must be access to the Cathedral at all times for emergency vehicles.
Local by-laws prohibit the consumption of alcohol on the Green.

Please keep to the grassed areas so that the pavements are free for access as we are expecting large numbers of people in the next week. The area between the Cathedral and up to the War Memorial is a designated safety area for evacuation purposes and must be kept clear.

You should also know that during this week of Remembrance, there are some very large and sensitive services taking place at the Cathedral. Please respect these times for the sake of the families of the bereaved and comply with any requests from our team of Virgers.

Individual protestors are welcome to join us for worship.

I guess they're hoping they'll move elsewhere when the winter weather gets worse. It's certainly a tricky one for the Anglican Church trying to avoid cries of hypocrisy and WWJD, etc?

...oh, and it really is a beautiful building which my pics don't do any justice at all!
Every stone detail hand cut by amazing craftsmen, it's quite humbling when I look at the majority of bolt-it and nail-it constructions we have today.
watersoul on Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:44 pm

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