Saturday, 5 November 2011

Occupy Glasgow: Move On?

I have been noticeably quiet on this blog for the past couple of weeks. Occupy Glasgow seemed to be collapsing in on itself and I wanted to see what the outcome was. It would be unfair to post any thoughts on the group before the dust had a chance to settle. There has been a lot of controversy about a rape that took place in the camp. It is disgusting to use a horrific event that happened to a young woman as a method of criticising an entire movement. Other women decided to speak out on behalf of their sisters in the camp – despite never having set foot in the place. I have had the privilege of speaking to women that were camping out in George Square. They state that they are treated as equals and are furious at other people speaking on their behalf. One commented “I hate feminists because they tell me what I can and can’t do.” It made me sad that the actions of women were taking away the freedom of their sisters.

So I decided to do something about it. Last week I organised a Women’s Working Group at the camp. It was a great opportunity to talk to the women campers. One woman brought up a valid point – instead of being a Women’s Group it should be an Action group. The camp was being the focus of every GA I attended. There were security issues with vulnerable people coming to the camp. This highlights Glasgow City Council’s shocking inability to handle Glasgow’s homeless and vulnerable people population. This was not the camp’s problem to solve but they were facing it every night. The same people were camping out each night and they were facing activist burn out. Also the Council were keen to move the protestors out the way for the Altar of Capitalism that appears every year: the ice rink and Christmas market.

A lot of people within the Occupy Glasgow group were keen to move, myself included. Internal camp matters were taking up too much time and effort. One of the proposed sites was Kelvingrove Park; to be more specific the patch of land next to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. High footfall, near transport links and shops, busy place. Sounded great.

Until I heard the news on Thursday. Occupy Glasgow were moving to Kelvingrove Park. Unfortunately they were moving to a patch of land just off Kelvin Way. That would be Kelvin Way that has a large number of sexual assaults then? Or the section of the Park that is notorious for cottaging? Or down the road from the “splendid chaps” at the GUU who are known for antics such as this? Any woman in Glasgow is well aware that Kelvin Way is not the safest place in Glasgow, not by a long shot. I mentioned the relocation to some female friends and they were horrified by the move.

I believe in the Occupy movement. It has highlighted that we live in a culture of greed: materialistic, financial, environmental greeds. Capitalism is broken and unsustainable. The system drastically needs to improve. The Occupy movement’s purpose is to show people across the world are concerned about the same issues. This is what unites us as human beings. Occupy Wall Street, and its sister movements, is a non violent statement to the 1% puppet masters: we’re fed up with your shit.

As much as I support the Occupy cause, I cannot support the move to Kelvingrove Park. It is not creating a safe space for anyone involved in the movement. The council can install as many floodlights as it wishes; it still does not create a safe space. I will join Occupy Glasgow on their activism ventures whether that’s writing letters, promoting the message or marching together through the streets of Glasgow. However I will stop at the entrance of Kelvingrove Park.

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