There has been a considerable amount of coverage of those Occupy sites around the world which have been cleared by heavy handed policing, or threatened with various legal actions and spurious trumped up Health & Safety issues. So it was interesting to return to the Occupy Edinburgh camp in St Andrews Square, in the centre of Edinburgh.
I had visited the camp shortly after it opened back in late October. Then I had found it excited and keen, open to questions and vibrant. There was an evangelical fervour in the way they came forward with their new visions of an improved world. It was also being rather heavily patrolled by Police. Plod at his ostentatious best.
Now on returning first on Friday evening, and again today I find the camp is still in place, still open to speak to strangers wandering in at silly hours of the evening. And things have changed. Certainly there are fewer people there. The photo I took today shows the patches of yellowing grass where tents have been taken down, but the presence is considerable given what the weather can be like in December.
In Edinburgh the camp organisers have also reached an accommodation with the City Council and are now camped under, if not the wholehearted support of the city Council, at least its grudging acquiescence.
The Police were notable by their total absence. I asked one of the organisers about this and she said that they had melted away. The only Police presence recently had been on Thursday when Edinburgh and eastern Scotland faced a torrential day of rain and gales. His presence had been purely in a safety role, checking that the inhabitants who bravely sat out the storm were safe and well.
And, I noticed something else as well. There is a confidence here that they are on the right side of an argument that is going to win. Previously, whilst any number would give me their opinions, they were less enthusiastic to give their names. Oh how this has changed. And, lest I should be moved to imagine that this to be a camp of nihilistic anarchists and the den of the antichrist, I was put right by Sean McAnna one of those on Friday night, huddled round a small chimenea for warmth, who explained how his philosophy was more of reform than destruction, and that the banks and financial institutions should be using their funds and skills to promote a wave of Venture Capitalism driving forward growth and employment. Hardly the voice of the anarchist.
The camp (and the Occupy movement) is proving its ability to endure and not to be a nine or a ninety day wonder. They still host twice weekly meetings and events despite the dark and the cold. This is a movement that is far from over.
Copyright David Macadam 2011