Occupy London: the protest camp in history

The latest news is that even St Paul is considering his position. Perhaps this is the time to look back and reflect on those occasions where the power of the protest camp has made a difference.

Can the current crop live up to their historical forebears?
Adrian Moss
On 3 November 2011 15:17

The latest news from the City of London diocese is that even St Paul is considering his position.

Perhaps this is the time to look back and reflect on those occasions where the power of the protest camp has made a difference.

Jesus and the money-lenders

And so the disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey, placed their cloaks on it and Jesus sat on the cloaks. The crowds went ahead of him and shouted,

"Hosanna to the Son of David"

As Jesus entered the temple area he turned to his disciples and said, "I will now enter the temple and throw out those who buy and sell, and those who lend money and sell doves. Just watch this. You'll love it"

But the way of Jesus was blocked by an encampment of people and he could not make his way to the temple. On asking them to move they denied him and told him in various tongues that the temple was closed.

On hearing this Jesus was much vexed but not nearly as vexed as Judas who had a cheque to pay in and tomorrow was the weekend.

Thomas Becket

Reginald FitzUrse, Hugh de Morville, William de Tracy, and Richard le Breton, set out to confront the Archbishop of Canterbury. On 29 December 1170 they arrived at Canterbury.

According to accounts left by the monk Gervase of Canterbury and eyewitness Edward Grim, they placed their weapons under a tree outside the cathedral, pitched a tent and set to prepare falafel, humus and tofu for their vittles.

When Becket was informed of their presence outside the cathedral he quietly finished up his vespers and made his way to the great door. As he walked towards them the knights fell silent until he stood within inches of them. He looked up and at their tents and smelt the various vapours of their herbal remedies. Slowly he shook his head.

"Bugger it. I can't compete with this. Give me 5 minutes and I'll go pack"

News eventually reached Henry that Becket had left Canterbury to go and set up a modest B&B in Folkestone and the King was spared the ash-cloth and self-flagellation. Which left him with a strange nagging feeling of disappointment.

Richard the Lionheart.

After an exhausting summer of ferocious battles in the holy land the Crusaders eventually reached Jerusalem where they pitched their tents in a camp outside the city walls.

To their astonishment, one-by-one, the highest commanders in Saladin's army left the city and surrendered to the Christian forces.

"If I knew it was going to be this easy" said Richard "I'd've stayed home and put me feet up".

The King was then plunged into a deep depression when he remembered that home was now England and not France and that on his return he'd have to face that food again.

Mary Queen of Scots.

On the night before her execution for her treasonous part in the Babington plot it is said that Mary had visions of mysterious figures telling her that all it would have taken to bring down the Protestant church in England was 2 three-man tents, a camping kettle and a plastic bag of poo.

In the event, she went to her death rueing a simple missed opportunity and her last words are known to have been: "Is Millets open?"


The von Thuringen plan was presented to Hitler in November 1939. In simple terms it involved the parachuting into London of crack teams of short-fuse vegetarians who would make their way to the Bank of England, the Palace of Westminster and Young's brewery.

Once at these destinations they would set up tents and refuse to move.

The essence of von Thuringen's plan was that rather than asking the campers to move on, British fair play and deep-rooted bureaucracy would ensure that the three targets, critical to the British war effort, would be closed down immediately on Health and Safety grounds and the war would be as good as over without a bomb being dropped.

It is said that Hitler spent two full weeks considering the plan before dismissing it at a meeting of his top generals. It is minuted that he expressed doubts that the British would ever close any important institution on such flimsy grounds.

"No-one", he is reported to have said, "Could be that stupid".

Adrian Moss is an award-winning screenwriter and a chapter-contributor to Biteback's recent publication, "Prime Minister Boris and Other Things Which Never Happened..."

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