On a cold Saturday evening the weekend before Christmas, I left my friends enjoying mulled wine at Winterville and headed towards Parliament Square to give a workshop at Occupy Democracy that was taking place that weekend.
I arrived at the square and was met with a crowd of people and a police woman blocking the entrance, no one was allowed in. A small group of about 25 people were on the grass in the middle of the square, looking like they were a huddling like penguins. And a huge van of police had just turned up.
To get to the crowd where I was meant to be giving a talk, I had to walk around the perimeter of the square and hop over the metre-high fence when no-one was looking, I was assured that wasn’t an arrestable offence!
As soon as I arrived at the huddled group I was introduced, and a megaphone was thrust into my hand, and I immediately started talking about how our money system worked and the problems it caused. My heart was beating quite fast, I never get nervous giving Positive Money talks usually, but there was something about giving a talk to Occupy, the most well know global movement of our day that gave me butterflies.
I rambled on for 10 minutes, trying to keep things clear, and not confused, ‘don’t mention Quantitative Easing too soon,’ I told myself, ‘you need to slow down’ I kept thinking. Quite a few of the crowd were distracted by the huge increase in police presence. Others engaged in the conversation and voiced their take on the problems with the current money system. Of course they knew a lot so we were quickly onto the topic of Quantitative Easing…
Before I knew it our small group discussing the ins and outs of money creation were surrounded by a circle of police officers. So we sat down on the grass and kept the conversation going. One of our legal representatives interrupted to tell us that the police were going to soon give us the ultimatum, leave or be arrested. The grounds for arrest was a broken cable tie at the fence, and someone ‘shouted at a police officer.’
Everyone felt annoyed, ‘can’t we challenge this?’ someone said, ‘Its made up’ another voiced. The whole thing seemed totally ridiculous. But the police were deadly serious about arresting 25 people for 1 supposed broken cable tie, and 1 supposed person shouting at a police officer.
We carried on the ‘workshop’ for as long as possible, but had to stop as the police circle kept closing in and general discussion was needed as to what action to take. I made the decision to leave, I was heading home for Christmas the next day and really didn’t want to spend however many hours being ‘arrested’ and the released. As soon as I stood up to go, police circled me. I said I just wanted to say goodbye to a friend. But they wouldn’t let me back in, ‘we will arrest you Fran’, (I had told them my name), ‘we will have to arrest you.’ ‘Arrest me for what?’ I replied. But it was no use whatsoever.
The whole situation would have been quite scary if it wasn’t so ridiculous.
Occupy are continuing to show how scared the establishment are of real protest and discussion about real things.
Occupy Democracy’s next instalment is on 24th January and there may be a vote on whether to include money reform in their list of demands.
We hope to see a fairer and more democratic money system on the agenda of a diverse range of campaign groups, so it would be great to see lots of Positive Money supporters there to support the idea at Occupy Democracy.