'Support the 99%!' Protesters occupy Dublin's Dame Street

David Johnson has spent much of the past three days outside the Central Bank on Dublin's Dame Street taking part in the Occupy Dame Street 

protest that started there on Saturday (8 October). Read his diary and view his pictures of the protest below. Please note his caveat: "It's important to say that I'm just a guy spending a lot of time at that camp, I'm not overnighting here and while I am involved in day-to-day tasks I'm not facilitating any meetings or speaking/writing on behalf of anyone."

Day one

It is now well past four in the morning and I have staggered in from one of the best days of activism possibly in my life, certainly in Dublin. My eyes are old, my knees are weak and my nose is knackered, but before I collapse into bed I thought I would share one final thought for the day on #OccupyDameStreet.

It started at 2pm with barely thirty people, by five pm there were maybe a hundred and fifty, and still at midnight there were at least a hundred folks and ten tents. By 4am when we left there were half a dozen more tents and a marquee hosting a consensus decision making mini-assembly - did I mention this was at 4am ! This was certainly not the largest protest to grace the streets of Dublin, but without doubt I have never seen its like here before. There were veterans of many marches and folks for whom this was their first act of political defiance, and everything came together organically with no leaders, no parties, no egos and no power-tripping. There were no spokespeople and yet everyone was a spokesperson, there was no single message yet at times everyone managed to literally speak with one voice. There was anger but no violence, discontent but no apathy and despite the gravity of the injustices highlighted, the day itself was one of unrelenting positivity. It was quite simply a perfect example of how things could be.

Even the drumming circle failed to spoil my mood.

 And even if no more people show up (though they will) and even if the gardai shut it all down on Monday morning (which they probably will), even if it does no more and goes no further than this we will be able to look back on it and say that at this place, and at this time, for twenty-four, or forty-eight, or seventy-two hours there were a group of people in Ireland who got up and did the right thing. For once they did the right thing.

El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido!


Day two

occupy dame street 

Deciding who gets to pick up the trash (answer - everybody!)
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

Day Two has seen the camp settle down into something more akin to a regular schedule, with the practicalities of an extended camping experience and the reality of what is being done starting to hit home. The early afternoon saw the creation of a number of volunteer committees to oversee food, construction, media (both on and offline), coordination, health, security etc. I spent most of the day on a construction group, putting up windbreaks, lashing down tents and generally trying to stop the whole camp being blown away by a ridiculously blustery October day - who would have guessed that the only open concrete space in the entire city centre would also be a wind tunnel?

late afternoon general assemply

Late Afternoon General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

The late afternoon saw a large General Assembly where the Day-Trippers (ourselves included) vastly outnumbered the Overnighters, the overall numbers creeping back up over the sixty mark. For such a random mix of folks from differing backgrounds with different motivations, it was amazing to see how fast consensus was reached on a wide range of issues, and more inspiring to see how disagreements were overcome. One good quote to come from the assembly was that #OccupyDameStreet is a political movement, but not a party political movement, the sense being that any movement by the people is by default political (small 'p'), even if it exists outside the structures of the Political (large 'p') system.

late afternoon general assembly 2

Late Afternoon General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

I think today saw the camp start to settle into some sort of a routine. After the initial euphoria of day one, people have gravitated towards particular roles and a daily schedule seems to be coalescing into place, with twice daily General Assemblies planned to act as an interface between Day-Trippers and Overnighters, and allow the camp and movement to be as open and inclusive as possible. While the numbers and composition of the camp will vary from day-to-day, it looks like the camp itself is in it for the long run. 

The biggest challenge will come tomorrow morning, when the Central Bank opens for business and the hundreds of employees inside shuffle past - the camp has adopted a policy of strict non-interference with the Bank and its employees; only time will tell if the Central Bank reciprocates. Unlike the #OccupyWallStreet protests which take place in a public park, the area outside the Central Bank is, most likely, private property, which means the Bank could insist that the gardaí remove the camp and its members forcefully if necessary.

Hopefully it won't come to that, and the bank realises what a PR disaster that would be.

More photos from today and yesterday are now up in my Flickr stream here
A further, much larger, set of great photos from Lusciousblopster can be found on her Flickr set here.

national debt clock projection

The National Debt Clock is projected onto the Central Bank
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

Back from night two of #OccupyDameStreet, a much, much earlier evening than last night, but I blame my pancreas (as I do for most things). As we left the talk had turned to thoughts of tomorrow am and what will happen as the Central Bank gets ready to open its doors. While the mood is still positive the first signs of an inevitable bunker mentality are starting to creep in, with folks unsure as to what happens next and what course of action the gardaí will take come the dawn.

here's to the crazy ones

Here's to the crazy ones
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

The primary thing to keep in your mind at all times about #OccupyDameStreet, and the #Occupy movement in general, is that it is a peaceful movement dedicated to non-violent resistance, to the point that the notion of leaving immediately if challenged by the gardai was discussed. No decision had been taken by the time I had to leave, and in all honesty even if a consensus was reached most likely it would be with the proviso that if other people wanted to pursue their own form of non-violent resistance they would be free to do so, such is the glory of consensus decision making (its like the Unitarianism of debate, ultimately everybody agrees with everything).

yes we camp!

#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

It is surprisingly uplifting though to see that despite a night of no sleep and explaining exactly what they are doing to every drunken passer-by on their way down to the taxi-rank; a bitterly cold wind that threatens to rip apart the camp every few minutes; and the imminent prospect of a forced eviction in the morning, tonight's General Assembly was conducted without alarm, without panic and without tension.

Even if this all ends suddenly in the morning #OccupyDameStreet have shown through their actions and voices that another world is possible. How that is manifested beyond Dame Street is up to us.

Day three

anyone seen our €115 billion

Has anyone seen our €115 Billion?
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Monday 10th October

Dawn, or a reasonable approximation thereof, rose over the Central Bank this morning revealing, under its speckled shafts of greyness, wonder of wonders, a protest camp! Despite last night's fears that come the working week the Central Bank would ask the gardai to move everyone on bright and early so as not to disturb the view of the IMF coordinators setting up shop inside to oversee our books, no such act occurred. The gardaí throughout this have been conspicuous by their absence, and when present have been incredibly positive and facilitating, to the point of asking the Overnighters to call them if the passing drunks get too much to handle.

In return the Camp has pursued its policy of non-interference with the Central Bank and its employees with vigour, with entrances remaining unblocked and tents moved last night to accomodate foot traffic into the Bank. This is the most polite and civilised protest I have seen since last year's march for Proportional Representation in London.

tv3 journalist

Do they teach 'Looming' in Journalism school?
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Monday 10th October

What was supposed to be a quick run in with coffees for the early morning risers on Day Three of Occupied Dame Street got unexpectedly delayed by the sudden arrival of Ireland's meeja. I have learned three things about Ireland's meeja today, a) they don't work on the weekend, b) they don't like early mornings and c) none are willing to be the first to cover a difficult story, but once the first has broken cover they all descend en masse like piglets at a trough, scrabbling over each other and fighting for the same scraps. Around 11:30 this morning came the first interviewer from the Irish Times, followed by RTÉ radio, Today FM, Spin FM, a different part of RTÉ radio and finally TV3 with cameraman and looming reporter. As the phone batteries of the Overnighters had long since gone the way of Irish sovereignty, my phone was pressed into meeja duty facilitating a number of on-air interviews (as I jumped around the camp shouting "I'm participating! I'm participating!", though mostly in my head). I almost managed to avoid talking to any journalists myself, only crumbling at the last minute when caught off-guard by The Irish Times Online. Sneaky little journalistses.

Today FM visit the camp

Today FM visit the camp
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Monday 10th October

One aspect of #OccupyDameStreet and the #Occupy movement in general that seemed to mystify the meeja was the fact that it is both leaderless and, on the face of it, has rather nebulous goals. The fact that it is a political movement outside the party political system means that it has a broad appeal, and the folks involved come from a wide range of backgrounds with an even wider range of reasons for talking part, all united by the desire to stand up and say 'Enough is enough" to their political and economic masters. But still journalist after journalist asked: "Who started this? Who is in charge? What are you hoping to accomplish?" While the first question is irrelevant, and the second is easy (nobody and everybody), the third is a little trickier to answer.

Spin FM visit the camp

Spin FM visit the camp.
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Sunday 9th October

I am there because I am tired of decisions being taken by those with political and economic authority on behalf of the richest 1% in this country (and the world). Politicians are elected by the people, and should represent the People, the 99%, and not the economic elite and certainly not corporations. The recent election changed nothing except who sits where in the Dáil, the policies being pursued are unchanged, the interaction with the IMF is unchanged, and the lack of accountability of those who destroyed our economy and bankrupted the State is unchanged. I do not think that by campaigning outside the Central Bank the walls of capitalism are going to come tumbling down, I do not think that the spirit of '68 will seize the country and we'll all go marching down Kildare Street arm in arm, and I do not think that a single banker will develop an urge to go home and rethink their life, but what I do hope is that as the elected representatives of the people sit and draw up the Budget, they will see the crowds and hear the outrage, and maybe, just maybe, will remember who they are accountable to and what they were elected into office for.

Reading out the list of demands at the general assembly

Reading out the List of Demands at the General Assembly
#OccupyDameStreet, Dublin, Monday 10th October

And if all of this is too broad a concept for the meeja to squeeze into a sound bite-sized nugget, at today's General Assembly four pillars of the #OccupyDameStreet movement, first suggested in the launch press release, were endorsed unanimously:

"Our demand in Ireland is that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB) stay out of our affairs. We do not want their influence or control. Our demand is that the private bank debt that has been socialised and burdened upon the population of the country who had nothing to do with it be lifted. We will not pay and let our children and grandchildren pay for this mess that private banks and bondholders have caused. It is their problem, not ours. Our demand is that the oil and gas reserves off our coast that were criminally handed away to private corporations be returned to the people. Our demand is for real, participatory democracy - where the people’s interests come first, where the people decide what happens."

While the order and the significance of these might vary from participant to participant, and there certainly are a raft of other platforms that individuals feel passionately about, these four were important enough to be unanimously endorsed by the Assembly, so you should feel free to tell them to any of your friends who say "Jaysys, why are all them hippies banging drums off College Green?"

And for the record, I despise drumming circles.


Orginally published on David's site, boomingback.org.


All images: David Johnson.