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It is easy to dismiss the “Occupy” protests as a radical fringe. But they are gaining support

The wave of protests last winter wasn't a one-off, writes Adam Ramsay. The discontent is growing.

It is not the blooming of the flower that matters. It's the growing of the roots. A couple of big protests do not a movement make. And in the inevitable summer lull, it looked for a moment like the movement against cuts in this country was withering.

But whilst protests weren't blooming, the roots were growing. People were consolidating, learning, planning and resting. Unions were balloting, and the economy, begging its masochistic masters for relief, was whimpering.

Now, school has started, students have returned. The summer is over. We're back.

In Scotland, the academic year launched with a series of rolling occupations - protesting against the decision of some universities to charge students from the rest of the UK some of the highest levels of fee in Britain - often £36,000 for the four year courses found north of the border. Most recently, last week, New York anti-folk legend Jeffrey Lewis serenaded the occupied garden of the St Andrews University Principal.

In Birmingham and Manchester, thousands protested against the conferences of the ruling parties, with Birmingham student Edd Bauer locked up for 10 days for hanging from a Brum bridge a banner welcoming Mr Clegg to the city.

Last Sunday's UK Uncut protest may not have blocked the bill. But thousands of people - including a significant number of medical professionals - took part in civil disobedience, many of them for the first time. After the mass arrests of 26 March, the commentariat declared UK Uncut to be dead. It is true that for a few months, the flowers didn't bloom so much. But we're back.

And today, inspired by our friends in America and around the world, it seems even more will join an occupation of the London Stock Exchange. And barring police brutality, people will stay there.

It is easy to dismiss such protests as a radical fringe. But in supposedly conservative America, they have gained the support of a majority of citizens. In fact Occupy Wall Street has more support than President Obama, the Republicans or the Tea Party. And, with 54% saying they view the movement favourably, whilst only 53% say they prefer capitalism to socialism, perhaps the idea that this is a fringe interest is a myth we can bust. And as the roots grow in America - with an occupation today in Peoria, Illinois, showing that support extends to iconic Middle America - they are extending here too.

Looking forwards, there will be a mass student protest on 9 November, and 30 November will see what could well be the biggest strike in British history.

The cuts aren't working. The deficit in June this year was bigger than it was in June last year, as austerity undermines the economy.

Youth unemployment just passed a million, and the NHS is rapidly being sold off. The wave of winter protests wasn't a one-off. As the bright autumn sun casts long shadows over Britain, the discontent is just getting going.

Adam Ramsay is co-editor of Bright Green.


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