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Occupy diary glimpses from the north

Anna Harris on the occupations in Manchester and Bradford

Many of us find ourselves in situations where we feel we have nothing to offer, maybe because of personal circumstances; in one way or another weíre really stretched. And at the same time we see the suffering of humanity, see conflict and wars and destruction, and feel compelled to come forward. Yet we are naked and afraid.

We don't come full of promise, bursting with proclamations of what we will achieve. We come because we must. Because we have to respond, and we know we are being asked to give everything. Not materially, but to give up everything we have been holding on to, the familiar which keeps us in our comfort zone. And rise to heights we have not dreamed of. That is what is required. We sense that.
Here are some glimpses of the Occupy movement in Manchester and Bradford.

Manchester

3 October: Today I made contact with the guys at Occupy Manchester. They are camped in a small garden called the Peace Gardens, near the town hall. There are about 16 tents with around 25 people, and more people arriving during the day.

Quite a lot of support from local people, food being provided, and some donations. A couple of policemen came through and we chatted to them about the restrictions on them expressing any political opinions. While I was there we set up a gazebo with a table to give info to passers-by about the public meeting happening tomorrow at one oíclock. There is quite a buzz of excitement around, and it feels like a good beginning.

The Occupy Wall St guys have made it clear, and it is something which has been taken up by our assembly in Manchester, that they/we are not asking for anything. This is a movement to encourage people to find their strength by getting together. They/we are not offering solutions. That is for each assembly to work out.

The first thing is to establish the principle of people taking charge of their lives through assemblies. This is already a huge work, but once established, it will have a huge effect.

8 October:. The meeting today  at Occupy Manchester was attended by about 50 people in the pouring rain. Many people spoke with passion about the changes needed to the systems that run us, when we should be running the systems, and about our solidarity with the global movement. Many passers-by expressed agreement with the movement.

The camp had had to move from Albert Square, directly in front of the town hall, because a food fair was arranged for the weekend. But, by negotiation, we were allowed to keep a tent on one corner of the square, to publicise the camp.

Occupy Manchester was later evicted but I heard that they have regrouped in another venue.

Bradford

Occupy Bradford began on 28 October after a couple of planning meetings. A large marquee and two tents were erected in the main Centenary Square outside the town hall. Over the week that grew to six tents. We held public assemblies at 6pm each evening and at 2pm on weekends, with usually around 25 people.

Lots of local support, people bringing food and asking what we needed, and much media coverage including local radio. We even made the Guardian. We didnít take up much of the square. We were willing to move when the square was needed for other activities. For example, there was a military march planned for the Sunday.

But the council said we were causing an obstruction, and after a week served an eviction order on 4 November.
We did not contest it, and decided to move before the bailiffs came.

We were offered an alternative site on Infirmary Fields, but it was felt to be too out of the way to be able to connect with the public. Our attempts to speak to councillors failed to produce any results, and our stuff has been stored pending a decision where next.