Up to 100 people listened to a rousing speech by former civil rights activist Eamonn McCann on Saturday in defence of the liberated former bank of Ireland building in Belfast followed by a spontaneous march to the city hall without a police permit chanting ‘Whose streets our streets.'
The writer and journalist emphasised the international nature of the Occupy movement and how the occupation must build links with others in struggle and the beginning of a wider fightback. A statement was also read out on behalf of the Independent Workers Union who have been solid in their support and solidarity of the occupation since the beginning.
The Occupiers also read out a statement to applause from the crowd below which can be read below in full.
‘We, the occupiers, would like firstly to thank all those who have taken the time to come and join us today. The liberation of this building and this rally mark the beginning of a mass campaign for decent homes and a decent society for all. This campaign involves all those struggling against the imposition of so-called austerity by the representatives of the rich and powerful in Stormont, Westminster and Dublin. We are not here today to plead for crumbs from the tables of the rich. We are here today to demand and to create a world where the interest of the many comes before the interests of the few.
Throughout the course of the past week we have been called 'eco-warriors', 'dread-locked hippies', ' masked youths', and 'giro junkies' but you know and we know what we really are. We are ordinary people who can no longer stand by while our futures are stolen from us, while house repossessions sky-rocket, while the chance of ever finding a job dissipates, while higher education becomes the preserve of the rich. We are people who still have hope.
But when we hope, we do not do it blindly. We know that a new society can only be created if we do it ourselves, if we take back what belongs to all of us. Take buildings like this one and put it into the hands of the public. By creating new social centres, by stopping house evictions, by taking over the assets of the speculators and making them into assets of the people, assets of the whole community.
We have heard recently that in the past two years house evictions have doubled. Over 1000 families have been put out of their homes. MPs and privatisation specialists Price Waterhouse Coopers may express surprise at this figure. But it does not surprise us. Every day we see families struggling to satisfy their most basic needs like heat and food and shelter. Every day we see people being told they have no more work to go to. But every day we also see ordinary working class people fighting back. So while 1000 families were evicted last year ,it came as no surprise to us that almost 90% attempted to fight against the actions of the bailiffs and the banks. And we would like to say to all those people right now: We support you and admire your resistance. Do not give up the fight. It is only just the beginning. Evictions must stop! No family should be left homeless because of the greed of the banks!
And just a word to the police who are standing behind you. After we occupied this empty building you attacked it with hammers trying to get us out. This building which is a central part of Belfast's architectural heritage. Where were you when families are being turfed out onto the street by the banks? The banks are the real criminals. Not us. Nor the hundreds of families who insist on having somewhere to live.
We have also heard that twenty six thousand jobs will be lost from the public sector in the next five years. We currently have a youth unemployment rate that has increased by 155% in the past five years, so that now over 20% of young people are out of work.
This, along with the imminent increase in tuition fees, amounts to nothing less than the destruction of the future of our young people. We refuse to allow this to happen. It has been said in the past week that we are all simply unemployed people with nothing better to do. But considering these figures it really would be a surprise if there weren't some unemployed among our number. But this is not the point. The point is that young people have been left without a future and it is up to us to create one. One that is not based on greed and exploitation but on co-operation and solidarity. This is what this protest means. And let us not forget there is no better task than to create a just future for all!
Thank for your support. Now is the time to create a truly mass movement capable of challenging the power of the speculators, banks and politicians. One that can create a future in which decent homes are had by all. Join us. Solidarity is Strength!
A short film on the ongoing occupation of the former Bank of Ireland, Royal Avenue, Belfast.
by the Creative Workers Cooperative
The WSM are holding a public meeting this Saturday at 2pm in the workers cafe, 48 King Street on 'Fighting the Cuts & Anarchist Alternative'. Speaker Andrew Flood and possible someone from Occupy Belfast.