Friday, October 28, 2011
Occupy Dame Street. Dublin, 2011.
The protestors in Dublin have camped outside the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame Street in the city's center, naming their protest: Occupy Dame Street! For me that was an opportunity to talk to them, get to know their cause, understand it and perhaps even join them!
I decided to go and speak to one of them in a cold and rainy day in Dublin. Not ideal for interviews under a tend, but they are used to have people approaching them and ask questions. They quickly offered me a warm cup of tea. I sit down on a wet from the rain chair and speak to Emily, a young Dublin artist that is willing to explain to me why she is part of the protest.
She explains to me that the background of the people taking part, as well as their motives differ; from students, people who lost their jobs and homeless people, to people who have jobs and just want to express their anger. They go in the camp in the evenings and get up to go to work the next day, having spent the night there! Some of them are Irish but there are non Irish citizens participating too.
The group was set up by individuals that were watching the events unfolding in the other side of the Atlantic and the rest of the World. They soon set up an event in Facebook, came in contact with each other and so it started. The main purpose of their initiative was to show solidarity with the other countries in crisis or protesting!
Emily tells me that each person participates for different reasons, they have individual hopes and agendas. Some because they want the IMF out of Ireland, some others want to push for the oil and gas of their country to be returned to the people of Ireland. All of them though have an anti-Capitalist agenda, and they all disapprove that our Governments put profit before people. They demand " a real, participatory democracy- where the people's interests come first, where the people decide what happens." You may read the full statement of the movement here: http://www.occupydamestreet.org/our-statement .
" I came for two hours, and two weeks later I am still here" says Emily. Her personal ambitions are not political, rather social she makes sure to mention. They have no plans about how long they are going to continue the protest. The group makes decisions in daily assemblies and for the moment their agenda is to continue their protest as long as it takes. They face few problems of course, apart the very wet Irish weather. "Shelter problems prevent more people from coming and joining" tells me Emily. They are working to solve those issues, so hopefully they will have more protesters joining.
They get a lot of their food from nearby restaurants that offer them meals. The public is very supportive too, Emily adds: "people drop in food to us." They also have a " wish list" on their website (www.occupydamestreet.org) with things that they need and their supporters are providing them. Anything from hardware and DIY, to blankets and electronics.
She points out to me that they are trying to spread their message on-line. Promote it to "underground" media, since America set up the standards for media blockage on these protests; almost all mainstream TV media do not refer to the protests as much as they should. They avoid giving an exact image of what is happening in those protests. So they do most of the promotional work on the internet.
I ask Emily if they had any interest from any of the media. She tells me that almost all Irish newspapers have shown great interest and support. But not the Irish TV and radio media; "they had ignored us overall, apart from some small reports." They had more interest from foreign TV channels like the France 24 and Al Jazeera. And the majority of Irish politicians did not show much of an interest either, with the exception of Senator David Norris!
Their daily work involves two assemblies where people who visit can voice their opinions and express their concerns. They take note of them and trying to be the voice of the people, by including them in their statements. They organize forums, they have set up the "Occupy Dame Street University" where people can ask questions and get information. They also organize arts and culture events, that some include music and traditional Irish music. Recently they had Billy Bragg, an English alternative rock musician and left-wing activist playing in one of their events.
I leave Emily to continue with her work, as other members of the group are asking for her opinion and assistance. They have work to do as it seems and I was starting to get really cold under that cramped tend full of books, food and other supplies. I passed from their camp a couple more times during the next few days and I saw their group growing, while more people walking through their camp debating and asking questions. I think what they are doing is amazing and plausible. Someone had to start something like this and I am more than pleased that ordinary people seem to support them or at least be curious about what they are doing.
I am not surprised of course that the mainstream media and the political elite try to pretend they do not exist. They hope that the whole thing will just fizzle out and be forgotten. It is up to all of us of course, not just the people who participate in this campaign to prove them wrong. This is an opportunity for all of us to get involved and have a say in the future we want. Will you use it, or will you pass it by?