28 November 2011

#OccupyDameStreet - #OccupyIsland!

Charlie and the Technicolour Dream Socks
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 26th November
On Saturday #OccupyDameStreet turned the big five-oh, fifty days since the first tents were erected at the gates of the Central Bank, fifty days since that first group of people stood up and demanded that their voices be heard, fifty days since they first tried to show that another world is possible, fifty days since Dame Street first echoed to the chants of “We-are-the-99-percent!”, fifty days of cold and rain, of joy and hope, fifty days of possibilities and promise, fifty days of defiance.

Charlie Bird visited the Camp on Saturday, broadcasting his afternoon show live from the street. Nestled away in the warmth of his mobile studio he quizzed Brian Lucey, Constantine Gurdgive and Michael Taft on the fate of the Euro, the fate of Europe itself and Ireland’s bleak future both near term and longer, while in the Camp he asked if protests even matter any more? He said that two and three decades ago hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest over austerity measures and unemployment and yet as he spoke the Dublin Council of Trade Unions could barely muster a few thousand outside the GPO. Where was the fighting spirit of yesterday, he asked, did the people of Ireland even care anymore?

And its not just the mainstream Irish media asking these questions, throughout our economic crisis we have suffered the additional humiliations of being mocked and patronised by those abroad, from the Greeks carrying signs in their protests declaring that “We are not the Irish”, that they wouldn’t stand quietly by and let their futures be destroyed by the financial institutions and the politicians who do their bidding, through to Der Speigel’s condescending pat on the head, praising Enda Kenny’s austerity program and declaring that in contrast to the Greeks, the Irish people “aren't throwing firebombs. Their suffering is of the quiet sort, as they cut back and submit to the inevitable.”

While the streets themselves may not be filled with people, there are most definitely groups and individuals around the country who are not content to quietly suffer and “submit to the inevitable”, and as the rest of day five-oh on Occupied Dame Street progressed Charlie Bird, the Greeks and Der Speigel were all given notice that the first fifty days were only the beginning, as Dame Street hosted the first all-island gathering of #Occupy movements.

As the Dublin Council of Trade Unions march drew to a close on O’Connell Street and folks who had chosen to participate in the march returned to Dame Street, the Camp swelled with protestors from #Occupy groups around the country and from the North, with #OccupyCork, #OccupyGalway, #OccupyWaterford, #OccupyLimerick and #OccupyBelfast arriving in for a cup of tea, a joint General Assembly filled with fire and song, and an evening of planning and strategising.

The Exchange kindly hosted the groups for a marathon three hour conversation, where lines of communication were established, solidarity affirmed and concrete proposals for direct actions and other activities were floated, all of which will be brought back to the General Assemblies of each #Occupy group for further discussion and approval. The consensus that emerged was for each #Occupy Movement to continue to exist as a wholly separate and autonomous entity, but for stronger communication and coordination to take place between all groups, for learnings and best practices to be shared, and for material support to be offered should any single group face external threats.

The groups will meet again in three weeks in Cork, and while it may not have been on the same scale of the Mansion House in 1919, or Carpenter’s Hall in Philadelphia in 1774, the sense that this was the start of something very big indeed was overwhelming.

One of the most common words of encouragement that #OccupyDameStreet hears from passers-by on the street is thanks for just existing, that there are many, many people out there who wish they could be at the camp day-in and day-out, but that the harsh realities of a life where simply getting by is a constant struggle preclude them from making it down for anything more than the briefest of minutes, or the shortest of posts online, if at all. For effective change to happen it doesn’t always needs thousands on the streets, all it needs is a group of dedicated and determined people who know they have the support of thousands at their backs.

With a coordinated #Occupy Movement acting across the entire island of Ireland and the support of many thousands more unable to take to the streets themselves, real and meaningful change can become a reality and a group of wet and wind-battered tents can be a more effective catalyst than any Greek firebomb!

Onward to the next fifty days!

#OccupyCork own the mic at the General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 26th November
#OccupyCork really own the mic at the General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 26th November
#OccupyIsland! #Occupy groups from North and South meet at the Exchange
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 26th November
#OccupyIsland! #Occupy groups from North and South meet at the Exchange
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Saturday 26th November

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