The Occupy movement has continued to struggle against eviction pressures in the UK and Ireland: Dublin’s long-standing Dame Street encampment has been cleared (as of 8 March), and the future of Occupy Nottingham’s Old Market Square encampment depends on the outcome of a pending County Court hearing (to resume on 16 March). In London, evicted protesters from St Paul’s Churchyard and the ‘School of Ideas’ remain at the Finsbury Square site, having failed to establish a further encampment or squat. However, postings on Occupy LSX social media provide evidence of an escalation in support for direct action and protest activity following eviction – in a move to ‘Occupy 2.0’. This is likely to represent a general increase in risk to businesses and property. Despite a lack of movement to ‘Occupy’ further sites thus far; vacant property and open spaces remain at risk.
Planning is already underway in London for a May 15 ‘Mass Action’ in solidarity with Occupy groups worldwide. May 15 marks the first anniversary of the first Occupy assembly in Madrid, Spain (May 15, 2011), and 7 months of global Occupy encampments (from October 15, 2011). Spring 2012 has been marked as a key time for Occupy to launch an offensive worldwide, with a significant step-up in direct action broadly encouraged. Action for May 12 in London has also been discussed, with a suggestion that it be more ‘family friendly’ than ‘spiky’ activities planned for May 15. May 16 and 18 have also been put forward as potential dates for action. The 2012 G8 summit is to be held in Camp David, MD, USA on May 18-19, and is likely to be a catalyst for organised protest activity during that week around the world.
Tactics under discussion from Occupy London include blocking Westminster Bridge, blocking roads and railways, disrupting public transport, shutting down ports, working from a map of targets at random to organise many small actions and ‘impromptu bigger actions’, shutting down big businesses and blocking entrances to corporations. At greatest risk will be banks, financials and other ‘big businesses’ prominently targeted by single issue activists in the UK. Despite the availability of meeting notes, there is strong evidence of a step-up in tactical organisation and operational security from the group, with plans for stealthy target acquisition and specific avoidance of kettling from police.
Early planning (more than two months in advance) is highly unusual for Occupy activists, and reflects a strong desire among activists to make a substantial impact. The movement has received much criticism from the press and general public for its ‘unclear’ objectives, lack of efficacy and loss of momentum, so this will likely be regarded by activists as an opportunity to change such perspectives. The outcome of any planned actions will depend on the efficacy of security and the police response – which is likely to be heavy and highly motivated to prevent disruption (in line with a strong post-riots initiative).
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