Protesters vowing to maintain 'occupation'
PROTESTERS camped in Plymouth city centre say they are preparing to stay beyond Christmas to highlight the nation's growing discontent.
The Occupy Plymouth camp near Drake Circus is one of nearly 1,000 worldwide, as demonstrations over the financial crisis and social inequalities continue to spread.
Nearly 20 tents have now been pitched at the city's Jigsaw Garden, with activists ranging from the homeless and unemployed to solicitors and businessmen. The Occupy protests have split opinions across the globe, as riot police yesterday swooped on camps in the United States and legal action was launched against protestors in London. Plymouth's camp was erected ten days ago, and includes around 25 people from the city, surrounding villages and beyond who are staying full-time, plus a further 15 camping out between work and family commitments. They are calling for tighter fiscal regulation, the reigning in of corporations and action over the gap between rich and poor.
"The only way our culture of debt and privatisation is going to get sorted out is with massive change," said Kelvin, a practicing solicitor who has been staying overnight.
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"I've got a baby and I want him to grow up in a fair and just society."
Another protestor, PJ, travelled from Southampton to join the protest.
The dad-of-one, who described himself as a 'solo forest dweller', said he lost his job as a farm labourer when a corporation moved in and the farm went bust.
The 22-year-old said: "Vodafone are accused of owing £6billion in tax, yet pensioners are being sent to prison for not paying their council tax.
"That is a complete injustice and I feel I have a moral obligation to make sure my little girl doesn't go through it.
"We don't have the answers, but we're trying to get people to ask the questions that can force change.
"We alone can't change anything, but this is a collective group of thousands of people all over the world – and when that many people stand up their voices are heard."
Afternoon shoppers largely supported the demonstration.
Sue Cook, 56, from Tamerton Foliot, said: "A lot of people share their concerns but not everyone can to join in for whatever reason. It's a peaceful protest and I think they have valid concerns. I don't see the problem."
But Des Tidwell, 70, accused the group of being "anti-capitalists" and "hippies", and of "ruining the city centre".
Another protestor, plumbing company boss Glynn, said: "I'm not anti-capitalist – I run my own business – but I think we need fairer and stronger regulation.
"The banks played fast and loose with our money and got us into this mess, then a few months later they're back to back-slapping and bonuses. We're not here because we think sleeping in a tent on a small patch of land is going to change the world. It's about the numbers and the statement we're making."
A female student, who did not want to be named, said: "I've never been to a protest before but I felt so strongly about this.
"We're going to be here as long as it takes; we already have plans for Christmas."
And Mark, a photographer from the city, thanked visitors for donating food, clothing, books and firewood.
Daily visits from the police and a self-enforced ban on drugs and daytime drinking had kept away serious trouble, the activists said. They have also set money aside to re-seed the Jigsaw Gardens after they leave.
"We're not here to disrupt the area," PJ added. "We're here to disrupt the corporations."