One of my friends is a member of the comedy anarchist group the Space Hijackers who have, in the past, driven a tank through the G20 protests. Their mission is to rebrand corporate owned space, in an amusing a way as possible. In the light of Frank Miller's remarks about Occupy Wal Street protestors, I thought this would be another look at the current situation. The following is reprinted here with full permission.
Paternoster Square, home of the London stock exchange sits right next to St Paul's Cathedral in the heart of financial London. This grand square with it's public art, benches, restaurants and bars is part of the life of the city with hundreds and thousands of people using it every week.
That is, hundreds of people who are deemed worthy of using it. You see, now like many other "public" areas of London, Paternoster Square is in fact privately owned. We've previously done projects highlighting the negative effect such ownership has on the life of a city and on freedom of speech, see for example our No No No outings. Public access is granted by the corporation who own it, but this access can be withdrawn at any moment.
Such a moment occurred when the Occupy Movement declared their intention to occupy the London Stock Exchange as part of a global protest against the Financial Industry. As we all know, post economic crash, the government spokes people for the banks who run this country implemented a system of austerity, cutting public services and ripping up hard won legal protections in order to feed the greedy banks. A global protest was called, and quicker than the blink of an eye, Paternoster Square public access was withdrawn. A hefty police barricade, security checks and 24 hour surveillance ensured that the only people using the square would be those who the private owners deemed worthy (un-moral) enough.
The protesters were locked out and forced to take over the land adjacent to St Paul's Cathedral, whilst the people of the London Stock Exchange carried on about their business of gambling with our futures. That was of course until our latest project.
We've long ago discovered that with the right clothes, a confident swagger and perhaps a pre-booking even an anarchist who's appeared on the front pages of the papers can saunter through police and security lines. We wanted to get to the bankers, the dealers, the money men on their own turf. Behind the police lines, when they were at their most vulnerable, literally with their pants around their ankles. So we resurrected an old project which we once trialled in Parliament.
We met a 7pm outside St Paul's Tube Station, around the corner from the protest incase we bumped into anyone and they blew our cover. Agents Monstris, Bristly Pioneer, Square Mile, Hardcastle and Undecided. Dressed in our city finest (pinstripes, shiny shoes, neat hair, stern looks and copies of the paper under our sleeves) we then walked up to the barricades as agent Bristly Pioneer announced that he was here with some clients and had phoned earlier about a reservation at 'The Saint'.
A clip board clutching lady looked up, as the hi-vis security started to wave us through without any sign of question in their eyes, meanwhile the City Of London Police looked on over the protesters they were keeping at bay. We were escorted to a rather nasty gastro-pub/bar and invited to take a table (the place was rather empty) amongst the post work bankers. In our pockets we could feel the pre-stuffed envelopes we'd come to do our mischief with.
We ordered drinks and some olives (ouch) and tried our best to blend in with the crowd. Eventually after casing the joint, and assuring ourselves that we weren't being watched it was time for the first of our number to visit the toilets….
Bristly and Square Mile were the first to venture in, looking around to ensure they were'nt followed they slipped into the cubicles and began unwinding the toilet roll. Reeling it down into a giant pile on the floor we then opened our envelopes and started winding the rolls back up, slipping in our pre printed messages for the bankers:
"We can reach you even behind police lines"
"Capitalism is a sinking ship, time to leave like a rat"
"A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University reports that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth. This is unsustainable and is going to change whether the 1% allow it or not"
"Your day will come and one day the police will not be on your side"
The fiddly toilet roll machines meant that it was long and hard work, the squeak of the mechanism constantly sounding out as we rolled them. Crossing our fingers that there wasn't a big queue building up on the other side of the door. To buy us some time, we left a large empty part at the front end of the roll, so that hopefully the messages wouldn't start coming out until after we had left.
Back in the bar we made plans on which other venues to visit in the square whilst Agent Monstris went back into the Ladies to fill the other cubicles. She had pre-printed a pile of Financial Times LIES sheets to slip in along with the messages.
Agent Hardcastle went outside to scope for other venues and test if we could actually leave "The Saint" without the escort we'd been brought here with. He came back with good and bad news. You could definitely walk around freely, once you had got past the security team, but aside from a chop house restaurant there weren't a lot of other open venues. Being the two most presentable Square Mile and Bristly took to the chop house.
BP "Hi we'd like to make a reservation for a table of 5 for tonight"
SM "Yes, about 9:30pm"
Chop House "I'm not sure if our kitchen will still be open, I'll have to go and check"
BP" If you wouldn't mind that would be great"
SM "Actually if you don't mind I'll just nip to the loo while you check"
Chop House lady goes to check with the manager and while Square Mile works on the toilets
Bristly makes a reservation under a false name and waits with the Chop House lady for Square Mile to return
BP "Actually, while I'm here waiting, I had may has well use the toilets too if that's ok"
Chop House "Not a problem Sir"
"Of the world's 100 largest economic entities, 51 are now corporations and 49 are countries. This has to change"
"we are everywhere, your capitalist cathedrals will come crashing down. This unjust system will be ripped apart"
"Petty measures to 'make the system more just' will no longer work. We are demanding wholesale change, wiping the slate clean and starting again. This period in history is ending, with capitalism's painful death will come a new dawn."
Meeting back up with the others our last stop was the Corney & Barrow wine bar which runs along the north side of Paternoster Square. However it seems the entrance into the square was blocked off and the only access to the bar was from the outside of the police lines. So before heading out, we had to pose for a quick photo behind enemy lines. Back out and into the Corney & Barrow we were feeling super secret agent. More agents were once again dispatched to the toilets, whilst Agent Undecided zipped around slipping messages into the menus and magazines around the venue. He also discovered that the hand towel dispensers were open, so we could simply place our messages between the towels to be distributed over the next week or so.
At one point the lady who had escorted us to The Saint, came in with a security guard, and we thought we were rumbled, but seemingly our disguise held up and no one approached us. A swift pint (ouch even more expensive!) and we were on our way back around to the occupation to catch up with friends.
And so now we wait…We wait for the guy who' s scoffed at the protesters on his way into work, to lock himself in a little room, drop his underpants to his ankles, and sit there exposed, his own shit filling the air as a little note drops out:
"We have no faith in your sham governments, controlled by finance and headed by Etonians. The emperor has no clothes on . We can see you ugly and naked and soon to be scared. We are taking to the streets. The time of global capitalism is drawing to a close. It's time to pick a side."
We wait for the lady who struck the deal condemning a small factory to be closed down, shortly before she was told her department is being 'streamlined' to be handed a message in her most private moments:
"Your boss is out to shaft you too, time to down tools and join the occupation!"
We wait and we silently feed them morsels of revolution…