Occupy London Vows to Bring Out Thousands of Protesters
Staff Writer, CNBC.com
The Occupy Wall Street protests have spawned plenty of similar movements across the United States, and on Saturday the Occupy movement will go transcontinental.
Thousands of people aggrieved at the way the financial crisis has been handled will gather outside St Paul's Cathedral, less than 100 meters away from the London Stock Exchange, on Saturday at noon to begin their protest, which could last for months.
Occupy the London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX) protesters have been advised to bring food and water, tents and sleeping bags, if they are planning on camping out.
A highly visible police presence already occupied the area around the Exchange Saturday morning. Several City of London police vans, some filled with officers, sat parked at discrete distances on surrounding blocks around the exchange and St. Paul's. A handful of mounted police officers stood ready near the exchange in Paternoster Square as the sound of a police helicopter thumped overhead.
Aside from the police, London protestors will encounter another major disadvantage compared with the Wall Street protesters, who have been able to base themselves at Zuccotti Park.
The area immediately in front of the London Stock Exchange is actually private land, so they are legally forbidden from occupying it.
On Friday morning, stern warning signs were placed around the area, which often has hundreds of people walking through it around lunchtime on busy weekdays.
"Any license to the public to enter or cross this land is revoked forthwith," the signs said.
"There is no implied or express permission to enter the premises or any part. Any such entry will constitute a trespass."
"Access will only be granted to tenants of the adjoining buildings and their authorised visitors on proof of identity," it concluded.
The OccupyLSX plan is to protest close by rather than right in front of the Exchange building, in Paternoster Square.
Canary Wharf, which has gradually taken over from the older City district as London's financial hub, has also been considered as a venue for protests but the City is viewed as "more resonant" by supporters.
Of the group's 13,000 Facebook members, around 5,000 have already said they will attend Saturday's event.
"People are very excited about it," Naomi Colvin, a supporter of OccupyLSX, told CNBC.com. "There seems to be an appetite for it, and we’re really looking forward to it."
Similar protests are planned in Madrid—where the "indignants" movement that inspired the Wall Street protests began—Paris, Buenos Aires and Caracas, among other cities.
The 99 Percent
One of the movement's aims is to generate more coverage for what they call "the 99 percent"—people who are aggrieved with the way the credit crisis has been handledbut feel that policymakers are not listening to their complaints.
“Why are we paying for a crisis the banks caused?" asked Laura Taylor, a supporter of OccupyLSX.
"More than a million people have lost their jobs and tens of thousands of homes have been repossessed, while small businesses are struggling to survive. Yet bankers continue to make billions in profit and pay themselves enormous bonuses, even after we bailed them out with 850 billion pounds ($1.3 trillion—estimated cost of the British banking bailout according to the UK's National Audit Office)."
While the protests have the support of established protest groups such as anti-austerity activists UK Uncut, organizers say many of those expressing an interest so far are not seasoned protesters.
One of their aims is to increase mainstream media coverage of their views and raise awareness among policymakers.
Mediacoverage of the Wall Street protestshas multiplied rapidly, and President Barack Obama recently said that the protesters were expressing the views of the American public.
The protests occupied 7 percent of the US's collective news coverage in the first full week of October, up from 2 percent in the last week of September, according to Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Much like the Occupy Wall Street protests, the OccupyLSX movement is reluctant to label leaders, preferring to refer to the people coordinating the event as "supporters." The organization started off via a Facebook page just over a week ago.
"I think this would have happened anyway but you can only do it through social networking in a week," Colvin said.
The supporters CNBC.com have spoken to are eager to stress that the protests will be peaceful.
"It’s an absolutely peaceful process about creating a space for people to discuss these issues and think about alternatives in a policy area where they keep getting told alternatives don’t exist," Colvin said.
After the riots which shook parts of London over the summer, London's Metropolitan police will be watching out for any signs of violence.
- Ted Kemp contributed to this report.