The huddled tents of Occupy Nottingham became an integral part of the landscape of Market Square and over the past two terms, we grew accustomed to walking past their ragged banners and Do-It-Yourself posters, but who, if anyone, was on the inside? During the movement’s last days, Impact crossed the fence to find out.
On the 15th October last year, thousands of people across the world marched in solidarity to protest against the current state of the world economy and the way in which the current systems disproportionately benefit a minority ? in fact, their slogan was ‘we are the 99%’. And since this time, they have camped out in city centres such as Nottingham in objection to social inequality.
We had a friendly chat with Chris, age 33, a charismatic Buddhist enthusiast, whose goatee only assisted in furthering his eccentric demeanour. He certainly did not fit the misplaced stereotype of Occupy protestors, having received an Information Technology degree at university and having been in constant employment. Chris was swift to rectify the lingering notion that Occupy protesters are merely daydreamers boasting a naive optimism in regards to economic change. “We are fully aware that the change we are fighting for is not immediate, and relies on a gradual cultural transformation. The last thing we want is a static Utopia. Our main aim right now is to spread awareness; a vital stepping stone in paving the way to a fairer society.”
Essentially, Occupy’s desires can only be achieved if everybody wants them. Chris, like many of us, struggled upstream in the economic current, unable to find a job whose pay packet was sufficient to cover the cost of even a frugal existence. As a father, Chris wanted nothing more than to be able to provide for his family, and had been forced to move away from his daughter and his hometown due to expenses. He briefly graced the banking world during his time working for Santander, but like many others was forced out of work by the cuts, though he was not explicit in revealing every detail of his current position.
Chris covered the weekend watch for Occupy Nottingham, and had been there from the beginning. “The issue is that people are valued for what they earn rather than who they are, and the apex receives 40% of the country’s revenue.” Chris, amongst many others, aimed for a redistribution of this wealth in order to obtain a fairer society: “people should have the right to do more than just exist.”
During our time at the information point, quite a crowd began to develop. It was clear that every protester wanted to get their point across. And their personal reasons for being there were more diverse than the people themselves. One of the men we met during our time, Dave, who was at least 60, had come to Occupy after the public sector strikes. Living with a disabled partner, the proposed cuts to the public sector were one step too far. For him, it was the privatization of companies and lack of industry that led to the recent economic breakdowns and severe jump in unemployment, describing the current government as a “rotten apple”, with Cameron “picking up where Thatcher failed”.
He later argued that the reason for all the recent evictions is due to the Queen’s upcoming Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic games, describing Occupy as a “blot on the landscape [that] they want tidied up”. “They can find money for that“, he rightly pointed out.
Our time there highlighted to us that Occupy is not the directionless movement that it is often perceived to be, but a group of passionate individuals possessing a genuine concern for the welfare of the 99% who are unfairly disadvantaged by the country’s current fiscal hierarchy.
Even though Occupy Nottingham decided to close camp, it has become startlingly clear that the protestors aren’t ready to give up yet. They won’t settle for anything less than socioeconomic change, which none of them are foolish enough to believe will happen overnight. As Chris put it, “we are not a utopian movement. There are always going to be changes needed, but we want people living a more sustainable life”.
Caroline Lowman and Candice Pool