openDemocracyUK

Message from Democracy Village

A message from the protesters camped in Parliament Square.
Guy Aitchison
13 July 2010

I don't usually run press releases, but Democracy Village get such hostile treatment from most of the media and they're on the brink of being evicted so I thought I'd make an exception in this case. I also like the sentiment expressed in this blast back at the press (which I've copied below). It's a reminder of why it is some people choose to abandon home comforts and go and live in the middle of a noisy traffic island with a bunch of strangers for several months. It's easy for people, even those who may agree with their message, to sneer and say this kind of thing won't make any difference. I couldn't disagree more.

Democracy Village, Mayday 2010

The village is a hounding visual reminder to MPs, as they shuffle in and out of Westminster, of the bloody and disastrous effects of their policies in Iraq and Afghanistan. To the hordes of tourists and foreign press it's proof that people in this country haven't forgotten the victims of wars conducted in our name, despite politicians urging us to "move on". And in terms of sheer efficiency this must rank as one of the most successful protests ever with a tiny number of people generating masses of attention. In short, I'm glad it's there and I hope it stays.

Here's the villagers in their own words:  

Democracy Village has been an experiment in peaceful protest.  We’ve achieved a huge amount.  We’ve also made mistakes. The media has portrayed us as drunks, drug addicts, fighters and layabouts. 

Here’s the truth.

We all are.

Whether you like a drink on a Friday night, smoke cigarettes, drink coffee, get angry, or can’t be bothered to tidy up, none of us are perfect. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

What we’ve done is put a microcosm of our society under the microscope, and many of you (and some of us) don’t like what we see. 

Too many of us look the other way when we see something we don’t like; complacency is not an option anymore, we need to unite and face our problems together.

Here’s the situation that lead us to set up the camp in the first place:

Our taxes are currently financing war in Afghanistan, a country which has never attacked us, to the tune of £11bn. In so doing we’re reinforcing extremism and perpetuating the cycle of violence in an already unstable the world. 

On top of that, our troops, young men and women who are working to protect us, are coming home in ruins – those that survive their injuries are hidden from view, can’t find work and are generally forgotten; chewed up and spat out by the very country they are fighting for. 

An anecdote: At the end of one of our recent Talking Circles, where all our camp members have their chance to speak up about what’s on their mind, a young man from Rotherham took the floor and told us about his brother who was in the Army.  He’d been serving in Afghanistan and had returned to the UK last December at the end of his tour of duty, only to be told he had to return to the front line due to lack of reserve troops.  A week later, this guys brother got a phone call saying his brother’s jeep had been blown up by an IED  - the guy almost cried as he explained how he’d had to identify his brother from a tattoo on his back as that was all that was left of him.  He came up to me at the end of the meeting and said, ‘This is the only place where I feel anyone cares about how my brother died.’

Whilst we sit in our living rooms watching this distant conflict rage on, we’re also facing massive cuts in public services whilst big business and government rewards themselves with our money. 

We’re losing our civil rights day by day, and have sleep-walked ourselves into the world’s most surveilled society,  where anyone can be locked up with no charge for 30 days in the name of national security and peaceful demonstrators are arrested for sitting outside Downing Street.

Our parliamentarians, whether they start out with good intentions or not, are standing by or actively supporting terrible injustices at home and abroad, which have been pre-planned by undemocratic think tanks and unelected  Whitehall mandarins.

Tony Benn recently said, ‘the politics of the present is in Parliament, the politics of the future is in Democracy Village and on the streets.’

Instead of sitting around complaining when things go wrong, let’s actually make a change. We believe it’s our duty to resist injustice, and permanently protesting outside parliament is the way we choose to do that.

We want to learn how to become more passionate and compassionate, heal the rifts that seem to be widening between our communities, and ultimately be proud of our country again.

We can do it.  We must do it.  We will do it. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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