Three-hundred people don’t normally get this much attention.
Three-hundred people is the crowd of a non-league football match, a capacity night at a medium sized nightclub. It’s barely enough to fill a tube carriage.
But for the last few weeks, a band of 300 people have managed to get themselves into every newspaper in the country, throw the Church of England into disarray and become an issue for national debate. All for basically sitting down outside a church.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange protest comes at a strange time for British activists. With the coalition cuts and a year when the power of popular uprising has become a massive global talking point, they are having more attention paid to them than they have had for a generation.
The Occupy Wall Street protests started to spread globally, even enticing A-List Celebrities such as Kanye West, it seemed a formality that Britain would get one too.
Close to 2000 people marched on Paternoster Square, the home of the stock exchange, but entrance was barred by the police. So they set up camp as close as they could, which just so happened to be the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Now the remaining 300 have a stalemate. Plans have been voiced to stay until Christmas, or ‘until we reach some change’, which presumably even the most optimistic demonstrator feels will take a bit longer.
More likely they will stay until either the momentum dribbles away, as winter closes in and protestors realise that while they don’t like corporate greed, they are quite fond of a warm house. Or until the police have been given solid legal backing to forcibly clear the site, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be sued later.
It’s a toss up which will come first, but at the moment the smart money is on the police. There is a public meeting today for City of London to discuss the eviction of the site, and you feel they will be keen to progress swiftly.
So once they have left, whether under their own steam or chased off by Alsatians and baton wielding riot police, will it have been worthwhile?
It’s difficult to say. Changing the system is not something that can be done with ease. The honest truth is probably that while most people are aware of the massive inequalities of capitalism, they also know they are powerless to do anything about it, so they might as well just live their lives.
There is something in seeing this rag tag band of angry demonstrators shivering away in cheap tents while the City of London carries on around them, completely unconcerned, that makes you feel most people are right. There really is nothing we can do to change the way things are set up.
This is not a revolutionary movement. But how many of those who set out to occupy the stock exchange ever believed it would be?
What they have done is make sure that the issues they are angry about are kept close to the surface of public debate: that the idea that there are alternative ways of doing things isn’t swept under the carpet. That there are people out there, even in Britain willing to take their politics out onto the street.
It might not seem like much, but they are making a stand of sorts. And for a mere 300, they aren’t doing badly.