Time to call it a day at Occupy

We should look at how universities dealt with occupations in 2009 for how to deal with the dwindling movement in London today writes our UK Political Editor, Harry Cole

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It's not going to happen. Time to go
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Harry Cole
On 16 November 2011 16:05

In 2009 a wave of occupations swept across western campuses in response to the then latest flare up between Israel and Hamas.

Students forcibly entered university property, refused to leave and formed non-hierarchical collectives that made various globally resonating demands of the universities, such as refusing to buy bottled water from companies that may or may not have profited from Israeli springs.

The universities on this side of the pond went into a blind panic. Instead of evicting the students, cutting off the power, WiFi and more importantly the heating in the lecture theatres they had stormed, negotiations were tabled and fears of health and safety legislation meant that every whim of the spoilt Macbook wielding revolutionaries was met.

Their demands, however, were a different matter.

As I wrote at the time for an Edinburgh based newspaper, The Journal, there was another way of dealing with the mess:

“The general model for these sit-ins has been the same: get in there, take some photos, set up a blog and watch the chaos ensue as you block thousands of students from receiving the education for which they are paying. When a dozen or so students stormed their campus, university officials cut the power, WiFi and access to loos. They refused to negotiate, and very soon the whole thing began to fizzle out. That was New York University.”

Normal service was resumed in America, while, instead, the eyesore and roadblocks to education rumbled on in the UK. You can see where I’m going with this...

In the last forty-eight hours we have seen how the Occupy protests should have been dealt with weeks ago. Warning was giving to the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, they were told to clear out, and those that did not were arrested. They can return when it has been cleared up but the tents are not welcome.

Nobody is disputing the right to protest, merely the assumption that you have the right to camp. The right to protest is cherished, but so are property rights, upon which all our other rights depend. You have the right to protest, but you do not have the right to infringe upon the rights of others.

Nowhere is this more enshrined than in the United States, and finally it seems the lesson is filtering back across the pond - eviction notices are being pinned onto the tents outside St Pauls’ cathedral. A move that should have happened a month ago

But why has this taken so long?

As I wrote two years ago: “Last time I checked I don't think the Israeli government was considering a radical change in policy based on twenty-odd students, a guitar and the "creative space" they made for themselves to change the world in. And it seems nothing has really changed from the mutant offspring of this movement.

All that has happened in this sorry month of spin and camping is scalping three sympathetic men of God, who to all intents and purposes would have been fully signed up to the mixed and confused messages put forward by the curious mix of anarchist, communists and freeloaders. The Church of England did what it always does: wait until it's too late and then come down on the wrong side of the argument; an echo of the ridiculously timid UK university establishments back in 2009.

There is no evidence to suggest anywhere near a majority of the public support this action, let alone 99%, and, a media storm aside, what have they achieved? Nothing. Why are they given special treatment, above and beyond the law? Why hasn’t the deep clean and rubbish clear up already been and gone?

Their concerns have been noted, their message chewed over, but a tantrum can’t last forever. The occupiers should pack up now or they will only have themselves to blame for a messy standoff that nobody wants to see.

Harry Cole is the UK Political Editor for The Commentator. He tweets at @MrHarryCole and is the News Editor of Guido Fawkes, Westminster's leading political website.

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