This year's coolest xmas party: Occupy London's thank you gig

Guests including Thom Yorke and 3D from Massive Attack took to the decks.

The Occupy London movement received a well deserved thank you last night (December 6) in the form of a secret gig with appearances on the decks from the likes of Thom Yorke, 3D from Massive Attack and Tim Goldsworthy from UNKLE.

The press gang met up a few hours before, most still unaware of exactly what was going to go down. The only information we all seemed to have was that something big was going to happen at the occupied UBS site, the 'Bank of Ideas'. Ironically as we left, spokesman Ronan McNern noted that our pub of choice was also hosting the 'real' UBS Christmas party, one of life's pleasurable little coincidences that really makes you think everything happens for a reason.

As we walked to the location, McNern explained that the gig was kept secret not because of any notion of elitism, as some critics have already accused, but driven by genuine security fears (the small east London basement where it was held could fit, at most, 100 people) after Yorke had to cancel an earlier appearance at Occupy New York when the news got out too soon.

The idea was that the night would be the protesters' very own 'UBS xmas party', a chance to relax and enjoy an evening of entertainment. 'This is not about making something wild', McNern stated, 'this is a thank you for all occupy has done'. Indeed, after almost two months of occupation in London, a much needed rest was welcomed by all those of have worked so hard for the movement. But the night was not all relaxation and fun, the gig also served as a platform for today's launch of record label Occupation Records.

One of the men behind the organisation of the label, Adam Fitzmaurice, explained to me that artists like Thom Yorke and Massive Attack initially reached out to occupy to find out what they could do to help, 'They didn't want to make this about them, they wanted a way they could contribute', he says. He goes on to reveal that several other bands have already got involved with the movement's radio station, Occupy Radio. Bands such as The Strokes and The Libertines are amongst those creating playlists to be aired.

Over the next few weeks, several albums will be digitally released in a 'pay what you want' format, championed by Radiohead with their In Rainbows album. Artists have come together to write and records songs supporting the worldwide protests, but little was revealed about exactly who was involved. The first album to be released will be a recording of the night, featuring the sets by Yorke, 3D and Goldsworthy as well as a DVD recording of the poetry and dance performances that went on throughout the night. Funds will help finance the movement, not only in London but also all over the UK.

As everyone danced and had a good time I had the chance to speak to some people, in general the feeling was one of excitement, however the nearing court case listed for a December 19 start was at the forefront of everyone's minds. One protester, who has been out at St Paul's since the first day of occupation (October 15), expressed his fears about fair representation and certain 'elasticity' in the laws that might favour local businesses over the right to peacefully protest. He will be representing himself in court.

Another occupier seemed to feel more optimistic; she said she knew it would be hard but that she was proud of what they had achieved so far. Also out since October 15, she often does long shifts at the UBS building, which is open during the day as a community centre. I asked her about the authorities and whether they had tried to evict them from the building, 'I don't think they can really, not whilst the court case is going on' she answered. 'They have been quite understanding, we tell them they're more than welcome to come off duty but we'd rather they not come in on duty, you know?'

The level of organisation throughout the night was outstanding. Security was tight and the technical capacity exceptional. As 3D began his set, the crowd got to its feet and rushed to the front and suddenly I was no longer in the basement of an occupied building, but at a gig, arms in the air and with a jig under my feet. Clichéd as it may sound, there was a genuine sense of community here, kitchens open to everyone for a chat and a coffee, smoking areas crammed with people huddled together for warmth sharing ideas, and quizzing each other. I was welcomed with ease and proudly taken around and introduced to people with many stories to tell.

The next month and a half will be extremely busy for the occupy movement in the UK. Four albums are set to be released in quick succession, the radio station will be launched in full vigor, Occupy Everywhere will be underway and the court case on the 19th will decide the fate of the protestors camped out at St Paul's. But whatever happens next, the movement is optimistic that they are making a difference and are determined to do whatever it takes to continue to do so. 'We are the 99%', they chant, 'and the 99% will be heard'.

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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism