Miracles at St. Paul’s

I was busy in the morning of Saturday 15th, the day of the Occupy the Stock Exchange action, helping run one of the most beautiful alternatives currently existing in London. So by the time I could head off there, there were already some pictures on indymedia, and a full timeline: “We need food, water and toilet paper.”

I proposed some friends to grab some of those things to bring them.

“If they are already asking for those things on the first day, how are they going to survive? What kind of preparation have they done before today?”

Off we went, nevertheless, even though we were not too sure where the Stock Exchange is. Surely we would find the police vans close enough. And so we did. Police in different police uniforms had a whole area around Saint Paul’s Cathedral cordoned off, in different lines, each of those line distinguishable by a different type of police uniform.

I did not fancy being kettled for hours and neither did my companions, so we stayed outside the police lines, yet tried to see what was going on on the steps of St. Paul’s. An assembly seemed to be going on. We were told that the cordon was not a closed one, as the police allowed people get in and out one by one. They were playing with people’s patience, though, telling them where they could get out, only for it to turn out to be a lie.

Because of the certain lies and the possibility that the cordon would be later closed off, we decided to stay out.

By ten in the night the cordon had all but completely opened, save a police line towards the East, another to the West of the square, plus a very close knit line of police vans that blocked all of the square from the road and its passers-by. We ventured inside the square and then we saw the camping tents, about ten or twenty of them.

Then on Sunday, a few miracles happened. The priest in charge of the Cathedral, and with it the ownership of the land around it, stated publicly that the occupation was welcome to stay there. And Sunday being a Sunday, the congregation prayed, and this time it prayed for the protesters outside, “who are struggling for peace and justice, and for the police as well, may they behave in a humane way and not illegally”. Or something like that.

And then the food and other donations started to arrive. Tarp, tables, more tents, marquees, a kitchen. The kitchen gave away food continuously during the whole day and into the night. Shock awe, they weren’t even accepting donations. Some people had walked around with buckets in the afternoon, but they were no longer seen and people who wanted to donate money did not have an obvious place to go to.

For donations of objects there was the surplus tent. Duvets, tents, tennis balls. A beautiful and moving show of sharing.

Then the assemblies, the discussion groups, the working groups, and back to the assembly. Clapping, shouting, but above all, waving hands – which means agreement, by the way.

There were so many tents up by dusk, so much food donated to the kitchen, so many duvets in the surplus tent, it gave a real impression that the occupation is here to stay.

I leaned against a plastic sheet to arrange my things. Some one approached me and said, I would not put my bags against this. I thought he was telling me off. Oh, it’s only while I arrange my things, I said. Still, he answered, I wouldn’t put them there, it is plastic and your things will get wet. I looked at him. Why is it wet? Because I gave it a wash before taking it here to donate it, it was so dirty. Wow. That is so nice of you. No, well, it is just giving and helping as much as we can isn’t it.
I don’t think I want to go back to the old days either.