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What the Third National Occupy UK Conference Can Teach Us

Ragnhild Freng Dale | 13.02.2012 11:37 | Occupy Everywhere | Sheffield

Occupy Sheffield hosted the third national Occupy UK Conference over the weekend 20-22 January. Around a hundred Occupiers from the north, south, east and west of Britain, plus visitors from Geneva and Australia, came together to share experiences and plan future strategies. The conference was, for many, a much needed fire-lighter, invigorating and inspiring. A place where passionate individuals, usually dispersed around the country, could find each other and create networks.

On Saturday the conference kicked off with a discussion of eviction. The camps threatened with removal received advice about strategy; the support for these camps, especially the smaller ones, was overwhelming. Attentive listeners and participants in the wide auditorium of the Citadel of Hope understood the severity of their situation well. Immediately after this first meeting, those with experience in eviction matters linked up with novice occupiers from Sheffield, Liverpool and Exeter – all facing eviction in the coming weeks.

International updates were next and the message was clear; the movement goes far beyond the borders of this country. With visitors from Occupy Sydney and Occupy Geneva at the conference, there was direct affirmation that the world stands united. Meetings and greetings for the far-flung occupations were captured with a hand-held camera by enthusiastic members of the Swiss contingent.

Maca from Glasgow talked passionately about her home country, Chile, where the occupations of universities have lasted seven months. In Chile occupying as a form of protest has been used for decades and has brought about significant change in the past. “We need to learn from Chile”, Maca said, to an enthusiastic show of the jazz hands that have come to signify Occupy’s consensus-process; hands that were actively used throughout the three days that the UK Occupiers spent together.

Maca’s call for global solidarity was not the only one. London’s International Communication working group had been contacted by several other occupations – from Barcelona and Frankfurt to New York and Chicago – and were anxious to instigate a UK-wide MayDay action. The proposal was welcomed. A MayDay fortnight of actions entered the planning stage, the intention being to begin on 1 May, the traditional workers’ day, then to build to a series of events on 12 and 15 May. Still a work in progress as the conference ended, the prospect of moving forwards with ambitious but realistic goals, regardless of threatened evictions, brought a glow to the proceedings and the participants.

Whilst hiccups are inevitable when a large group of leaderless strangers gather – agenda-setting, time-management and food co-ordination were slightly tricky – these challenges were handled with warmth, intelligence and willingness from the excellent Sheffield hosts and helpful Occupiers from elsewhere.

The glow was, in many ways, exactly what the weekend was about. Discussions ranged from direct action, to the autonomy of Working Groups, to community outreach and dreams of a changed future. A UK-wide independent news platform for Occupy was launched. Skill-shares abounded and crowd-sourcing was recommended. Flash occupations, teach-outs, assemblies and meeting points were plotted. This was change being actioned. A conference to co-ordinate a revolution, unfolding before our very eyes.

Ragnhild Freng Dale
- Homepage: http://theoccupiedtimes.co.uk/?p=2307

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