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Things that keep London occupied

world Updated: Oct 22, 2011 00:54 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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If you are an activist, a protester, anarchist, even a housewife struggling to pay the bills, you’d better for head for London. Or not. The British government seems to be struggling to cope with a spate of protests that have spawned on the streets of London in recent weeks.

Some of it has to do with the growing global financial crisis that has forced the coalition government to make massive cuts in public sector expenditure. Some of it is unrelated — or maybe not.

There’s a sea of Occupy tents pitched outside the grand

St Paul’s Cathedral, lying in London’s banking and financial district. Police have been deployed in strength but they are unarmed and keep at a respectful distance from the protesters. Not so in Dale Farm, a travellers’ site lying some 50km east of St Paul’s.

Here, Romany and Irish travelling communities occupy a six-acre site with caravans and temporary buildings. After a 10-year battle with the local council, 100 riot-trained police officers moved in on Wednesday to evict 400 travellers in an operation that was described by The Times as “swift, violent and clinical.”

The rights of travelling communities — the term ‘Gypsies’ has fallen out of use because of its negative connotations — is a major issue in Britain. Travellers say they have a way of life that does not fit in with the mainstream and complain of persecution. Local authorities at Dale Farm say the travellers were in illegal occupation.

There have been claims that the Dale Farm campaign was hijacked by “outsiders” – activists who are not travellers. A dramatic image from Wednesday shows a woman standing in front of a blazing caravan, clouds of smoke bellowing behind her, as she brandishes a wooden crucifix. According to The Times, she is an activist.

The activists at St Paul’s are clear they want to keep their vigil peaceful. They are aware that some anarchists may want to seize the opportunity to set up camp in the heart of London’s financial centre but they will be dissuaded through peaceful debate, say Occupy organisers.

What occupies the occupation forces of London? Strategies.