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Occupy continues to defy

Occupy Sydney serves breakfast in Martin Place. Photo: Occupy Sydney/Facebook

Occupy Sydney has announced it will mark its second anniversary in Martin Place with a day of music, speeches, solar cooking demonstrations and free food.

The group will celebrate two years in the heart of Sydney’s financial district on Saturday, October 12 – the closest Saturday to the two-year anniversary on October 15.

Occupy Sydney participant Lance Priestley said the event would highlight the movement’s work feeding the homeless, which continues around the clock despite ongoing raids by the City of Sydney Council to confiscate food and equipment.

“They’ve raided us 18 times, with the latest being last Friday,” he said.

Mr Priestley said that rather than succumb, Occupy was holding firm.

“We’re very fortunate to have lots of people assisting us,” he said. “For example, a bakery is doing a special 3pm bake for us daily – they are just outraged at what the Council is doing. So if we get our bread taken off us in the morning, we’ve got new bread by the afternoon.”

Mr Priestley said the forcefulness of the raids had moderated somewhat, with police now taking a back seat.

“We’ve noticed a change in the raids over time,” he said. “During the first couple, the police were very involved. Now they stand well back and leave it mainly to Council staff.”

One raid in July saw Aboriginal grandmother Colleen Fuller hospitalised after an alleged clash with police and a Council staff member.

Mr Priestley’s observations were backed by a NSW Police source, who told City News on condition of anonymity that many police officers privately supported Occupy Sydney for feeding the homeless and “keeping people out of trouble”.

Police have refused to raid the Occupy site on weekends, said the source, “because weekends are busy, with real crime to fight”.

The NSW Police Media Unit did not corroborate the information but Mr Priestley said some police saw merit in Occupy’s work.

“We’ve certainly had police dropping people off to us who are cold, wet or hungry. They know it’s better for someone to come to us than to roll someone on the street so they can get a coffee or a feed.”

Occupy Sydney remains Sydney’s only 24/7 provider of free food and beverages. The group is now expanding to provide meal deliveries to householders doing it tough, especially single parents in Sydney’s south-west.

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney said they had removed Occupy Sydney from Martin Place 16 times – two less than stated by Mr Priestley – and would continue to monitor the group.

“The Council passed a motion on 24 June, 2013 supporting the right to protest, but encouraging Occupy Sydney and other groups to do so in a way that does not alienate public space,” said the spokesperson. “The City continues to monitor the site and abate any public nuisance that arises.”

Details of Occupy Sydney’s second anniversary, which will incorporate a march against chemical conglomerate Monsanto, are available on the group’s website and social media accounts.

In related news, the City of Sydney has given non-profit charitable organisation Habitat for Humanity permission to erect a replica ‘urban slum’ structure in Martin Place, to raise awareness of the rights of individuals to have access to shelter. The structure was in place for one day only on Tuesday, October 1.

“Organisers of the event have agreed to meet a series of standard conditions for event activity approval,” said a City of Sydney spokesperson.

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