Occupy Belfast

Words: Adlai McCook; Pictures: Peter Marley

“WE'LL have to get rid of that nonsense, put something angrier up there”, laments Kevin, one of the members of Belfast's branch of the Occupy movement. He's talking about a message, written on a chalk board after a visit by someone from Occupy Dublin, who paid them a visit a few weeks earlier. The message is vague and forgetful, the sort of thing that people have come to expect from the Occupy movement.

For those who don't know, at the tail end of last year, inspired by the original Occupy Wall Street taking control of Zuccotti Park in New York in protest against the wealth of the '1%' in comparison to everyone else. The movement spread across major cities, with tense stand-offs with the Metropolitan police in London. One of the most striking elements of the occupy movement was that it was not the usual crowd of fired-up leftists involved, but normal people, who were concerned about their futures.

So in October last year, an Occupy group sprang up in Writer's square in Belfast. In that time they've seen the clamp-down on occupy sites across America, and other part's of the world, as well almost hurricane strength winds. When asked if they stayed out all the time they explained that they took it shifts to make sure there is always somebody at the camp. One of the campers, 25 year-old Mark said, “I've been camping out for the passed 5 weeks straight now, but it can really take it's toll on you. You need to go home every once in while to recover.”

On the whole, the camp seems to run smoothly. They organise night-watches to protect the camp, they operate on a policy of freeganism, with food supplied by local take-outs and cafés, and in contrast to London, they get along with both the PSNI and the Cathedral Dean. Michael a protester in his late 50's said, “ we're causing him no hassle and he's causing us no hassle. Its a good relationship.”

Despite all this, the camp is not without it's problems. The idea behind Occupy was that they were in the face and in the way of the economic establishment, and that's what made them a force to be reckoned with. It's why things got so heated in London, and it's why the police in New York shut down Zuccotti park and refused to let the media near.

But Writer's Square isn't exactly in people's face.


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