Today, Wednesday, saw the Occupy camp at St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh, which I have reported on before, here closed.
After 100 days, and under threat of forceful eviction, the organisers decided to take the dignified route out, assembling at Edinburgh Sheriff Court in Chambers Street this morning to say that rather than put the taxpayer to the expense of an eviction they would accept the ruling with due pomp and then to march over The Mound and down into the New Town, where they would strike the camp with much ceremony and speeches.
The rather small group above had gathered at the gates of the Sheriff Court, their numbers overwhelmed by Police and mainstream media. It was rather low key, several of the Police had seemingly given up and wandered off in the direction of the take out coffee shops on George IV Bridge.
The organisers rather lost focus and were unable to maintain the initial enthusiasm and allowed discipline at the camp to deteriorate. Reports started to emerge that the camp became the haven for homeless street drinkers. “Jaikies”, as the Edinburgh dialect so delicately calls them, were said to have offended the sensibilities of nice people by peeing on trees. A small fire was put out with much palaver and self conscious publicity on the part of the authorities and letters to the press ensued. Accusations were made of anti-Semitism after a temporary sculpture was damaged. It was never established that such damage was the fault of the campers or any supporter, and it was strenuously denied by the organisers. But the political damage was done.
Support, too, had somewhat fallen off and the camp, latterly after Christmas had a forlorn air.
Despite the gloriously daft Christmas Eve stunt of running up the Jolly Roger on the flagpole on the roof of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the efforts of the camp had become dissipated into a more general complaining of the usual raft of pinko-lefty bête noirs piggy-backing on the bandwagon. So the Palestinians, the never ending demands for Independence, general Anarchism and any colour of Green whale you might imagine, all found a home here, diluting the message and alienating some of their support among the local unco guid. Their protest began, as my learned friends might say, to lack specificity.
And so all that hope and passion ended today in a raggle taggle march of the usual suspects plodding away in a thin drizzle? A damp squib, another glorious failure?
Yes, and then again no. At its height, the Occupy site hit a nerve with a wide slice of the people of the city receiving much support in the face of the usual campaign against radical leftism that characterises the city. But unlike their grandparents’ generation during the sixties, the political objectives were allowed to become rather vague and fuzzy.
The central points of inequality, corporate malfeasance and technical incompetence at both corporate and political level, as well as the sin of corporate money distorting the political system as much here as in America, were indeed brought forward to become mainstream. It was just that Occupy failed to hold the focus and this let the guilty slither away from continuing scrutiny.
So what has been learned? It clearly politicised a generation previously accused of not showing interest. The political game itself is now being played to new rules. Social media allows contacts across the globe, a movement becomes global overnight. Ideas, graphics and tactics can be shared in a second. New contacts are now established. Even the age old business of the demo has been given a spring clean. Gone are the duffle coats, Bob Dylan chants and sensible shoes. The rise of the “citizen director” armed with mobile phone video streaming broadcast quality footage in real time is ubiquitous. They even have their own occucopter drones to give aerial coverage. The Police have found that their use of force simply earns them dreadful publicity and unwanted press attention. At this moment the demo is a level playing field.
So what’s next? Well I think Global Swarm on May 12th looks interesting.
Copyright David Macadam