Saturday 16 November 2013

Guest Blog - Kicked in the stomach - By A.M Poppy

By A.M Poppy,

It’s a clear November night. It’s pitch dark, the temperature is  plummeting, and I walk home as if I’ve been kicked in the stomach.  I've discovered what it means to be gutted. I’m returning from a  squalid car-park where a small crowd of young people who have become  friends were assembled forlorn, alongside their motley belongings. Hi-viz jacketed bailiffs were silhouetted in the double doors that give  out onto the car park of the Bohemia pub from which the occupiers are  being evicted.

Under a lamppost my friends are holding an impromptu meeting deciding  what to do, where to go, how to proceed. I can’t help. I’m helpless.  The police had arrived after dark, in riot gear, with dogs and  bailiffs and broken the door down, apparently. Phoenix has never known  such haste in enforcing an eviction order. The ferocity of the entry  was captured on a local journalist’s phone. Danny takes comfort in the  fact that a neutral reporter will be able to bear independent witness  to what has occurred. The journalist as the eyes and ears of the  community, yes.

But can he be the heart and stomach of our community? Can he fathom  the significance of this expulsion to us who live near this  unglamorous, suburban high street? He needs to know that the fact  these young people had opened the space up for reading groups, yoga,  socialising, and entertainments including some daring burlesque was  just the outward surface things.

I am going to make a bold claim: That occupied Bohemia’s main  significance was immanent and symbolic, and all the more powerful for  that. Occupied Bohemia gave us a stake in the high street, a space  that we could invest with a wish, witting or unwitting. Its space  represented potential, and in potential anything is possible. Not  until I saw the gutted Bohemia – its vital organs, the occupiers,  spilled on the car-park tarmac – did I realise that a part of me had  died. A part I hadn’t known was there. A part that had invested in  that space a sense that as soon as I needed to, or wanted to, I could  make something happen in the Bohemia. That feeling has been called  many names: empowerment, self-actualisation, hope.

In a time of austerity, when options for most of us are shrinking,  when laws are tightening around us and the social safety nets are torn  apart, occupied Bohemia offered a chink of the prospect of being  agents in our own lives, of shaping our destiny at least a little bit.

With screaming riot police and dogs, the establishment has made clear  what it will do to such an impudent feeling. I’m not weeping. I’m  stunned, kicked, gutted.
Poppy was the Green Party candidate for the GLA Elections in 2012. Guest Blogs are always welcome

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