The focus of the Occupy Wall Street movement has, quite rightly, been on Wall Street or even some of its high visibility off shoots. But the whole point of the “Occupy” movement is that this is a world wide disaster. So I thought today I would take myself off to see one of the other camps that are scattered round the world all shouting as well about the financial mismanagement of the economy by the large financial institutions and the utter political incompetence and paralysis of politicians in meeting this challenge.
Edinburgh is Britain’s second largest financial centre after London, and a major European financial hub in its own right. The Occupy Edinburgh camp has been set up right in its heart, clustered around the memorial column to Dundas in the centre of St Andrew’s Square. St Andrew’s Square is the elegant Georgian setting for many head offices of household financial names and has because of this fact been described as the richest square in Europe. The gilded pediments of the entrance to The Royal Bank of Scotland’s head office scene of so much drama and angst in recent times, can clearly be seen across the street in the picture above. Unfortunately no one was available there this afternoon for comment. Which was not the case at all in the lively happy, and very welcoming camp Occupy Edinburgh.
Here were a very mixed group of campers very tidily set up in the heart of douce auld Edinburgh. Contrary to various untruths being spread in tabloid papers etc about cleanliness and “hygiene issues” at Occupy sites around the world, this is one spotless park. The group have rotas for all the residents who can be seen patrolling the area with litter pickers and rubbish bags. There was not so much as a cigarette end or a wind-blown crisp packet to be seen. A delight, and way better than when left to the municipal parks and garden staff.
The camp is clearly popular with Edinburgh residents. People of all ages, and many quite elderly, could be seen crossing the road from a frenetic morning in Harvey Nicks, or an agony of indecision in Louis Vuitton, to chat amiably with the protesters and partake of the free coffee they were offering visitors. There they sit on a small dwarf wall amongst the bongo drum player and guitarists all enjoying the bright autumn afternoon the chat and the free music. So although at any one time there may not have been a vast throng assembled, there was a constant throughput all the while my partner and I ambled about.
The Police however had clearly been told to make their presence obvious. There were any number of them all pitched out in their high visibility jackets and big blue “Police” bibs, to find themselves mingling in what much have felt like an extended coffee morning. The ones I spoke to were certainly very polite and pleasant. One even greeted me with a “Good Morning Sir”. Am I getting that old?
Quite what they imagined they were going to have to “police” in such numbers was not clear. Middle aged women with Cafe Lattes and cake did not appear to be some dark satanic communistic threat to the world as I know it. Evidently though, the Police were certainly under some instructions to tone the place down, as was seen by their instructions to remove the banners from up on the column of Dundas’s monument to impede the overall visibility of the protest and reduce the impact of the camp. Maybe they felt that the sheer numbers that were wandering about what is at the end of the day a small city centre park would dissuade ordinary people from coming over to see what was going on. In which case it didn’t work. The mounted police presence was, I felt, rather self indulgent.
The organisers were happy to chat with visitors and if you want to find out more or to support them in this friendly peaceful expression of dissatisfaction with the economic management of the system you can contact them direct at email@example.com or check them out on Facebook.
Copyright David Macadam 2011