OCCUPY London: has it left a lasting impression?

Daisy BlacklockYouGovLabs writer
February 29, 2012, 2:33 PM GMT+0

They came, they camped... and then, after four months sitting it out at St Paul's Cathedral the OCCUPY London protesters were evicted after losing a Court appeal.

But after many months of passionate campaigning, did OCCUPY really make a difference?

Needless to say, OCCUPY London's time at St Paul's was a turbulent one. The Cathedral closed on the grounds of 'health and safety'. The campaigners had to fight claims that most of their tents weren't being slept in over night. Giles Fraser, one of St Paul's canons and 'Thought For The Day' regular, resigned over concerns the protest could be moved on by force.

This week we posed the big question to PoliticsLab participants so we can hear your thoughts. Was OCCUPY London a productive campaign that created awareness and influenced policy change? Or do you consider it an ineffective and ambigous movement that has had little to no impact?

In the wake of the Occupiers' eviction, our poll on the issue found that while 43% of the Great British public supported the aims of the protest, 66% of the population supported the Corporation of London taking legal action to evict them. Then in his commentary last month, John Humprys explored the question of whether OCCUPY had indeed made any long-lasting difference.

In terms of changing opinions, policies, or raising awareness - what impact, if any, do you think it has had?  We want to hear your view!

What impact, if any, do you think the OCCUPY London campaign has had? Join the debate on Disqus below

Below, we look at the split of opinion from participants in PoliticsLab

Yes, they HAVE had an impact

ARGUMENT 1: They raised awareness of social inequality

"It raised awareness of the economic and social inequality and many other countries where 99% of the people are controlled by the other 1%" M Parker, Somerset

"It brought to the attention of ordinary working people the injustice of the share of wealth within" Colin B, Mid Glamorgan

"It was very effective in raising awareness. It was inspirational and linked in with worldwide movements. After decades of no signs of any active protest, despite some terrible wrongs, it was a bright light to see so many young people, and of course others, join in such a well-organised demonstration, making their voices heard, and speaking for many of us who do not have a voice with well-reasoned and clear arguments" Sylvia K, West Midlands

"It gets the point across that government works for all of us, not just for vested money interests" Anon, Gateshead

"Look how many bosses are not taking bonuses ... they are very much aware of public anger. Occupy London has kept the anger alive" Jay W, UK

"I think the majority now accept the need for change in our financial markets. There is less of a resigned atmosphere" Jamie, Southport

ARGUMENT 2: They got people talking

"Most people were apathetic and had a feeling of helplessness. Occupy made us all feel that we aren't alone and that there are people like us who will take action instead of just moaning about the economy" Lindi, City of London

"It raised awareness about the thoughts and feelings of the (up until now) silent majority" Anon, Gateshead

"More people are prepared to speak out than before. Hopefully we are a little less complacent" Michelle, Leicestershire

"We are now discussing the whole question of capitalism, corporate greed and the inefficiencies of the capitalist system as well as its fundamental immorality. This would not have happened without protests such as that outside St Paul's" Eric, Kent

"Made the issues into a topic of debate for ordinary people down the pub etc." Anon, UK

"The media had obfuscated the whole issue, directing their guns on a few individuals, content with nonsensical gestures like removing titles. The protesters focused people's minds on what had really happened, and forced them to think more logically and more deeply. People, many for the first time, began to see the tie-up between God and Mammon as they watched the reaction of the cathedral establishment" David A, London

ARGUMENT 3: They put pressure on politicians 

"When it comes to bankers, bonuses and coddling and cuddling up to the super-rich, the UK is an acknowledged world leader. That we also had one of the longest and most effective Occupy protests is gratifying, and should be seen as a source of national pride. Oh, and some bankers gave some money back and a quantity of dodgy-dealing is being de-dodgified, and Barclays is being hammered with a MASSIVE tax bill. They're my bank, but I don't care; that's what Occupy has done" Anon, South East

"We are seeing the government promoting 'caring capitalism'. Public opinion of such people in the financial industry as 'hedge fund managers' and other gamblers with other people's money has sunk to an all-time low" Arthur C, Norwich

"It has split public opinion on how the banks and government do business, and started conversations that are long overdue. It has made banks look more carefully on how they award bonuses. It has made the government more aware of public opinion on how the banks have been allowed to continually fleece customers. Hopefully this will encourage the government to control the banking system better" Rich T, Bournemouth

"They got in the faces, so to speak, of the establishment, and defied them for a long time. I think this country will see other protests in the coming years that will see this as the start, the acorn so to speak. I think that's where the main achievement has and will be" Nick A, North Somerset

ARGUMENT 4: They raised their profile effectively

"Publicity, publicity, publicity.

It appeared in the news regularly and repeatedly.

 A significant number of people must have considered why the protesters put themselves through such discomfort..."


"At the start, this was quite a small movement, an offshoot of the Wall Street protest. By the end, and particularly after action by the Corporation of London, they were known throughout the country. They achieved extra publicity following the initial disgraceful behaviour of the St. Paul's clergy, and this was enhanced by the resignation of one of the Canons of the Cathedral" Valerie, Cumbria

"The protest was on all UK and many foreign TV and radio news channels, and in the press. It gained publicity for a cause that would have otherwise been ignored" Craig A, Gogledd Cymru

"It has raised the profile of this type of movement. Some people will have been alienated, yes, but others will have been forced to re-examine beliefs that perhaps they have been complacent about" Anon

"The protest has regularly made the headlines and forced a public debate on the issues that they are protesting about" Rob, South Derbyshire

"It certainly raised the profile of the protest in a peaceful manner" Rudolf, Perth

"They got worldwide publicity, and on the whole the protest was peaceful" Kevin W, Midlands

No, they HAVE NOT had an impact

Argument 1- Nothing has changed

"You can't change the world with tents"

Pete, Coventry

"Has the greed continued? Has the exorbitant bonus culture been stopped? Have our MPs paid any attention? I think the answer to all these questions is NO. The establishment will be hoping that these protesting 'vermin' will go away and curl up and die, and they can get back to Maggie Thatcher's ME ME ME ME culture" AM, Scotland

"As far as I can see, apart from a slight decrease in banker's bonuses (temporary I'm sure) nothing else has happened" Anon

"I think it achieved little in the end as people got bored with the story once it went out of headline news. The idea that they were ever going to force policy changes by living in tents outside St Pauls was foolish at best" Anon

"Nothing has changed. The system will still work in the same way it always has" DC, Walsall

"Rich people will always be rich"

Chris R, West Midlands

Argument 2 - They had a bad reputation

"Many people feel as I do, so feel let down by their behaviour" Barry H, East Midlands

"The majority of them shown on TV looked like long haired dropouts. Have they not got jobs to do, and families to support, or are they living off tax payers like myself?" Lesley, South Yorkshire

"It tore the Cathedral apart, showed disrespect, created a literal mess and did nothing for its cause" Mrs Nixey, Oxfordshire

"They stayed there for so long that the clarity of their initial message was lost, and irritation that they stayed there ruining the Cathedral when their real focus should have been elsewhere grew. They were at their strongest when the Cathedral supported them - before they became an embarrassment and a nuisance" Anon

"While I am angry at the situation the rash and irresponsible actions of some of our bankers to get us in this financial mess, I oppose even more to the 'protesters' trying to hold the city to ransom. If anything, I have less anger at the bankers because of the protesters" Anon

"I feel the protesters were not genuine victims of the recession but trained activists and troublemakers" Rosie B, South London

"They made the public realise how a group of left wing demonstrators can twist the law to suit their extreme views. It's time we (the majoriy) woke up to their tactics" Anon

"Usual bunch of crusties who protest about everything. Would have been nice to see a cross section of people, but I guess they are all too busy running on the treadmill to stay in the same place" John B, East Sussex

"They were perceived as the 'great unwashed', the type of people who make 'protesting' a way of life. They latch onto a cause, protest and then move on to the next 'cause'. I would like to know how many of them visited Dale Farm" Anon

"They hardened my attitude toward this sort of lawless, anti-social behaviour! I'm sick of the Government, authorities and media panndering to such obvious law breakers! It's my hard earnt taxes they were spending!" Mike, South West

Argument 3 - It was too disorganised and unclear

Because the only question being asked is

'should we allow protest camps?'

Nice one. Job done” 

Laura, Northumberland

"Most of the publicity focused on where and how they were protesting rather than what they were protesting about" Pat A, East Anglia

"Too disorganised - from the public eye it was shambolic" Graham A, Lancashire

"Just wasn't handled in the right way. They came across as mad, lefty activists claiming to represent 'the people'. Better methods could have been followed" James, London

"The manner of the protest,
in fact all protests of this type, tree sittings etc., dilutes and confuses the intrinsic message which may well have a lot of justification and considerable public support" Peter, Suffolk

"I think most of the general public were not really clear as to what they were protesting about, and that the messaging and aims were very hazy. The protesters could have done more to spread a more coherent message and to sustain their media profile after the initial interest" Anon

"An unclear message from start to end" Geoff, West Midlands

"It seemed that a lot of people didn't really know why they were there; they were just tagging along. They also did not provide a solution to what they thought the problem was" Anon

"The aims of the protesters or what they were trying to achieve was not broadcast. News stories were about the problems they caused, the people who lost their jobs at the Cathedral, and the eviction. The aims and views of the protesters weren't put across in the media; they were described as anti-capitalist and communist but their specific plans and aims never mentioned" David, Nottingham

ARGUMENT 4: They alienated their sympathisers

"The St Paul’s Occupy crowd seemed very ill-informed, partisan, and confused. Led presumably by their political leanings. They gave no clear message as to their aims and seemed to not understand how the City works or what benefits the capitalist system brings. It all seemed very sixth form politics and muddle-headed. Their constant refrain that they were the 99% (i.e. the rest of us) and that they were doing it on our behalf, also grated with me and the majority of people I spoke to" Ursula, Shropshire

"The manner in which the protest was conducted alienated many who might otherwise have supported them" Bill, Hertfordshire

"Unfortunately their message was lost in the political hoo-ha. I feel they should have gone about this in another way. I actually visited the site at the height of the occupation and was disgusted at the mess that had been made of the area by some of the protesters. The place looked like a rubbish tip - although I agree with their aims I was disgusted by some of the participants' behaviours" R, Scotland

"Much of the initial support was eradicated by the behaviour of the extremist elements amongst the protesters" Pete C, Home Counties

"I don't live in London, I've seen it on the news but thought more about the negative effect of people obstructing St Paul's rather than about the political point they were trying to make. I also think that the behaviour of the banks is abhorrent, but this sort of protest doesn't increase or focus that opinion. If they'd had one day protesting, maybe several separate days of protest this would have had more impact I think. Like a poster on a wall for months, you very quickly don't notice it, it just becomes rather dog-eared wall paper" Anon


ARGUMENT 5: They didn't get enough good publicity

"It hit the headlines then died away"

Dave, Teeside

"A protest which started with genuine concerns allowed itself to be hijacked and ridiculed by tabloid press" Anon

"They got a bit of unfair publicity. I don't think in two years’ time they will be much remarked on" Anon

"After creating an initial flurry of debate, which mostly centred around their choice of location and the resignations from St Paul’s, it all died down and ended up being quiet. It also hasn't really had any effect on the views of the capitalists or politicians"



the ‘little’ people who don't hold any executive or legal power are unable to achieve anything beyond profiling

, and this is dependent on the mass media. We know that the press is massively skewed to the right-wing of politics and run by proprietors who are in favour of the pro-banking/market/capitalist/individualist so

the reporting tends to be unhelpful to the aims of the movement


Chris B, Surrey

ARGUMENT 6: The public are 'fed up' of protest

"Most people I have spoken to are fed up with groups protesting"GN, Perth

"Most ordinary hard-working people were against them protesting in this way. If they have time to sit around St Paul's Cathedral they are obviously not working or contributing to society so they are hypocrites" MR, Leicestershire

"Public memory is short. They were a nuisance at worst, and inconvenience at best. We've seen it all before, and they shortly become history. People's opinions, in the main, are not changed by these sort of juvenile protests" Anon

"They come across as left-wing radicals, and most people in this country, whether of the left or right just want to get on with their day-to-day living. I don't think most people want scruffy university types (even though they may have good ideas) speaking out for them. Most people cannot 'connect' with those type of protesters" Jane W, Berkshire


In the next part of the survey participants told us what, if anything, they associated the OCCUPY token mask with.

The 'face' is that of Guy Fawkes - an image which, first popularised by Alan Moore's graphic novel, V For Vendetta (and the major follow-up film), has increasingly appeared on faces amidst scenes of protests worldwide.

The mask may be seen as shorthand for opposition to the institution of government. But what associations did you make? Ironically, some participants, seeing the mask for the first time, felt the mask represented 'smug' capitalists, as a snub to 'ordinary people'.

Here is the range of other responses they gave, from the positive and negative associations, to those who were more ambivalent.


"It's a symbol of rebellion and not backing down. It should be kept" Nick, North Somerset

"As the riot police hide their badge no.s and cover their faces with bully boy riot gear (whilst agent provocatuers often start the trouble) why shouldn't anyone else do the same? I think the mask is and has become an instantly recognisable symbol" Anon

"It's from the movie V for Vendetta. It's become somewhat symbolic of the removal of people's freedom being adopted at protests and marches all over the world" Anon

"I think it's great. Everyone except the super-rich should wear one" Anon

"I associate with V; a fantasy film figure waging a fight against a fictional, futuristic totalitarian regime. For some it may be representative of an unrealistic freer future. The wearer should have had the hat, wig and cloak as well" Martin, West Country

"The mask has enormously raised the profile of the Anonymous group of online activists and is becoming synonymous with opposition to the attempts to restrict and censor personal freedom"

"It represents everything that is fair and just and opposes evil" Gary D, Essex

"Right mask for the right movement." Martin, Sussex


"I recognise the symbolism but I'm not sure it's necessary or wise. It perhaps trivialises the message of the protest" Anon

"Stupid thing to wear in public. There is a time and place for this type of frivolity and in public is not it" Don H, East Anglia

"It is now a bit too clichéd, and is now close to being a parody rather than a symbol of rejection of existing political and social systems" Marty M, Béal Feirste

"Not sure what it is supposed to portray in the context of anti-capitalism" Anon, Norfolk

"If he really believes in what he is doing he should be unafraid to show his face. I do not agree with the protesters keeping their identities secret. If you believe in something, be proud to show your face" Christine M, Surrey

"I don't like masked faces. I find them very intimidating and scary" Anon

"V for Vendetta tends to be linked to violent activity on the back of peaceful protests" Michelle, Leicestershire

"Seems to portray a self-satisfied fat cat" Anon

"To people who have not seen the V film, the mask might seem sinister" Anon

"I think it's ridiculous and prevents any coherent debate with the wearer" Anon

In between

"It's an interesting hijack of the image. While I can understand that it comes from a film largely linked to the book 1984, it is also showing the power that Hollywood has worldwide. Given that Hollywood is, in my view, a perfect example of what capitalism is I think it’s interesting that 'anti-capitalist' protestors have taken this on!" Anon

"Very clever in a studenty way. It shouldn't be used to hide behind when committing crimes" Lee, Hull

"It's a good way to brand the idea but needed more publicity on what it stood for. Unfortunately it also used for the wrong reasons i.e. to hide faces of rioters" Mike N, Bristol

"It's a great mask. V for Vendetta has a great message but these protests weren't for the same reasons" Rob H, Maidstone

"Effective, although ironic as the Warner Bros own the rights and are making a fortune from it. 'Anti-business creates business!" Darren W, UK

"It was a useful symbol, now it has become slightly irritating and overused" James, London

What impact, if any, do you think the OCCUPY London campaign has had? Join the debate on Disqus below