Thursday, November 24, 2011

Occupy London responds to the Evening Standard

Posted on November 24, 2011 by occupylsx

Since the City of London Corporation published its legal bundle over the weekend – an account of its case that naturally gives a rather one sided picture of Occupy London Stock Exchange and its camp at St Paul’s Churchyard – there have been a series of stories in the media which give an account of the allegations in that bundle.

We are not afraid of criticism and negative news stories are something we expect. In the usual scheme of things, we would see no need to make a particular comment on those stories. But sometimes you need to take a stand.

Last night the Evening Standard ran a front page story (“Needle bins at St Paul’s camp to beat junkie health hazard“) that we think oversteps the mark. We have never sought to hide the fact that some of the more vulnerable members of our society have sought solace at our camps, not so much for the food and shelter we provide as for the sense of community we have established in contrast to their experience in wider society. [1]

Feeding prejudice and stigma

Feeding prejudice and victimising vulnerable members of our society, as the tone and placement of this article did, is not a hallmark of quality journalism. To invoke the spectre of an AIDS scare on the basis of unsubstantiated speculation is as unprofessional as it is inappropriate, coming as it does just a few days before World AIDS Day on 1st December.

Many of these vulnerable groups who have been included in press reporting – including the homeless, those with mental heath issues, drug and alcohol addictions, those living with HIV and others – are already being victimised by the government via cuts to vital services. Reporting of this nature only serves to stigmatise people that are part of our society, however much discomfort that fact may cause to some.

To see the Evening Standard perpetuating this social division is particularly puzzling in light of their ‘dispossessed’ campaign. [2] Occupy London wonders what it might be that makes some of the dispossessed more deserving of sympathy than others.

Fighting for a more just society

Occupy London is a place where everyone is valued for what they contribute to our society and everyone is encouraged to participate in that society to the best of their ability. We are very clear about the standards we expect but we are, above all, inclusive. That is something to be proud of.

Some of those who have come to join us at Occupy London bring their pre-existing problems with them. While we freely admit that some of these problems are beyond our capability to solve, we owe it to all members of our community to do what we can and not abandon those who seek refuge with us.

We are proud that campers and supporters at Occupy London have been proactive in dealing with potentially challenging situations. A responsible approach to reporting what happens in our community needs to recognise the difficulty of some of the situations facing us, as well as the efforts we are making to ameliorate those situations – efforts which are greater in many instances than those of the bodies which have the statutory duty to do so.

The less responsible approach to reporting these difficult situations is to condemn those in our society who are least able to exercise their right of reply. Not only does this badly misrepresent the actual prevalence of addiction and mental health issues in the vicinity of the London Stock Exchange, we are not even sure it makes for good copy. [2]

A call for calm and responsible reporting

While we understand the imperatives of the news cycle, we would like to renew our call for calm and responsible reporting. [3] We ask that the media give everyone involved in the camp fair representation. We are not the only ones to have recognised this need, as when the London Central Branch of the National Union of Journalists recently came out in support of Occupy London, it stated that ‘Fox News-style coverage is not acceptable in Britain’ as well as reminding its members to push for fair and accurate reporting. [4]

To reiterate: we are not afraid of difficult questions – in fact that, in a fundamental sense, is what we’re about. Occupy London is a diverse group of Londoners and supporters who have come together to open up a space for dialogue challenging social and economic inequality in the fight for global democracy. Therefore it is important that we address the allegations and issues that have been raised in the media in relation to the City of London Corporation legal papers in a full and open manner.

Meet the welfare team

We have always held that the best way of understanding what goes on at Occupy London is to come down and see for yourself. To that end, we invite members of the press to meet members of our welfare team and others across the camp including our health & safety and sanitation working groups, to ask the questions they feel need answering. Do contact the press team to book a one-to-one interview.


[1] November 3 – Important Occupy London call for welfare assistance
[2] Evening Standard’s Dispossessed campaign / Also see
[3] Cocktails and cocaine clubs are becoming commonplace in the Square Mile
[4] Occupy London Statement on #9Nov and the Right to Protest
[5] NUJ Solidarity motion

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