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Viewpoint – Alternative: Occupy, where are they now?

Submitted by on March 5, 2013 – 12:00 pmNo Comment

George Barda of the Occupy London movement.

It’s a year since Occupy London left the shadow of St Paul’s Cathedral, but many of the group are still campaigning for change.

George Barda was one of the most recognisable faces of Occupy London. With his long dark hair and wiry beard he often appeared as a spokesperson for the group.

“We just don’t get as much media coverage now that we are not outside St Paul’s,” saide Barda.

One of the groups most recent campaigns did capture the attention of the media: the occupation of Friern Barnet Library.

“Quite a lot of people identified with what we were doing outside St Paul’s, but even more so with the library,” said Barda.

The library was closed by Barnet Council as a result of budget cuts and the building was to be sold off. Barda, along with several other activists, began an occupation of the library in September and re-opened it to the public.

He said: “We were in an area where the library was one of the only public buildings left, so it was quite an important part of the community.”

There was overwhelming support for the library to be re-opened and more than 10,000 books were donated before it was handed back to the local community and officially opened to the public again earlier this month.

The group lived in the library for nearly five months, and when asked what it is like to live there, Barda said, “It’s just lovely to be part of a community.”

It is this sense of community that Barda  feels is being drained from society.“I had this amazing moment about six months into Occupy. I was just walking across the site, from one end to the other, and passing a bunch of people, sort of nodding, saying ‘hi’, in just a really natural way. It was a fifty yard walk, and I stopped for a second and thought: this is what a community feels like. It was so nice.” He said.

Barda was one of a handful of protesters in court to defend the Occupy camp from eviction. Fighting in favour of Occupy “was very emotional,” said Barda, who was moved to tears at points during the court case.

He has taken that passion for justice to a new campaign called Shift. He said: “It’s like a main stream Occupy movement which brings together people from all walks of life, including big business and the Occupy movement.What we want to do now is get people feeling that they can get involved. When we were outside St Paul’s there was so much media attention. When you focus on the story of Occupy, the more it becomes about the church rather than the banks and the corporations and their links with central government, which is what Occupy was about.”

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