The people occupying the land between St Paul’s Cathedral and the London Stock Exchange and all the other hundreds of occupations around the world have pushed a serious debate about the ills of predatory corporatism onto the political agenda for the first time in decades. Had we all turned up for a day, marched a bit, maybe gone to a rally and the pub afterwards no-one would have heard about us. However, these unprecedented numbers encamping have created a space where real debate can happen. Our persistence is something new. The frustrated disillusioned people who wouldn’t normally express support for any political movement have found their expression in the occupations. We know this because of the vast support we get. We get practical help every day at St Paul’s, with people turning out to help every aspect of the occupation. They turn up with food donations for the kitchen, batteries for our lighting and tech systems, books for our library and in person to speak at our university.
Being in occupation in the heart of the City of London is a serious matter. We’ve pitched up centre stage in the heart of the capitalist system. We work hard to make our occupation the success it is but when we’ve exhausted ourselves with this work, like everyone else we like to relax. What better way to relax with than a decent comedian? Luckily we have our very own unofficial jester in camp. Here he is:
He’s always on duty, performing his harlequin role with all the diligence displayed by the old artisans of the commedia dell’arte in the glorious days of Italian theatre. His particular take on the craft is an unusual combination of stream of consciousness nonsense mixed up with the persona of a courtroom derelict. You know the people I mean. They sit in the public galleries watching the trials, picking up on snippets here and there but never grasping the meaning of anything they witness. Then they spout whatever confused nonsense they feel like at whoever would listen. Our jester entertains us royally by marvelously confusing even the simplest legal concepts and complicating them beyond belief.
He likes to start with his own name, which I’m told is Dominic Lohan. He takes objection to the words “Crown Copyright” written on the form used to register births. I need hardly point out that the Crown claims copyright to all the forms it issues so that only it can produce them. Dom’s routine often begins with a simple jump to the conclusion that the Crown is therefore claiming copyright to his name! That jump is then quickly smothered with more humourous gymnastics. The tumbling becomes quicker and quicker until the listener can hardly keep up. Swiftly he denies that his name is owned by him but only by the Crown. Refusing to use one word where many will do, he prefers to be known as “the man commonly known as Dom”. He loves to poke fun at the meanings of words to the point where he appears obsessed about the nature of meaning itself.
As with all fools, he’s at his best when locked into spurious argument with someone else. Here he is debating with two charming City of London police officers. They play their stooge roles beautifully. Being the man commonly known as Dom, he’s not terribly interested in other people’s opinion, be they police officers or anybody else. He bombards them with a few questions, doesn’t listen to the answers and then refutes what he wanted them to say by calling in enigmatic references to his personal nonsense law. Bless.
When we’ve had a good laugh at his witticisms, we turn back to the serious business of being in occupation. The man who would prefer a much longer winded version of his name than is feasible for every day usage carries on. He continues playing the fool, not recognising when the tomfoolery should stop. He picks up his megaphone and disrupts general assemblies until even he cannot cope with the embarassment factor any longer. He verbally attacks Occupy London’s legal team, accusing us of being secretive. At this point, I think he takes the joke too far. There is no point to having legal advice if aspects of it can’t be held back from our opponents. If I share the advice I receive from John Cooper QC, on behalf of the Occupy London, with absolutely everyone then I also share it with the City of London Corporation. Our general assemblies and other working groups are completely transparent and public. The legal consequence of that is that I then waive my right to the confidentiality of all the advice I have received and will receive in the future. What would be the point of that? It be analogous to joining the shelter team and then helping the wind to blow our tents away. There’s also not much point in getting involved in legal work without any training, unless you’re a spoiler.
You’re a funny fellow Dom but even you have to learn some limits. Like the rest of us, you’re self recruited to the role you play. You question how I came to be the person who instructed John Cooper QC? Read and learn.
I’m easy to contact through this blog. Obviously it is easy for anyone contacting me out of the blue to claim to be anybody, so I have be sure who I’m talking to first. That said, although you have spent much time criticising lawyers in general and the legal team in particular, you’ve never attempted to contact me at all. I tried to talk to you once but you walked away when you heard that I had had legal training. Perhaps you’ve got an issue with people with specialist knowledge?
Perhaps you prefer to be regarded as a camp expert of some sort, to have people gather around you and listen to you alone? I’m prepared to admit that when I hear you have relentlessly criticised me, I find it hard to see the humour in the situation. I congratulate you for your costume, your self-belief and your commitment to the bigger cause but I wonder, have you started to believe in yourself a bit too much? Have you taken the joking too far?
Occupy London fights its battles on many fronts, be they political, publicity, practical and, yes, even legal. It is but one front but if we’re going to fight on that front too, we need expert lawyers not babblers of modern-psycho-mystical-nonsense, which is the comedic diversion you provide so beautifully Dom. Unfortunately, you’ve crossed the line between what is good fun & jest and antisocial behaviour. Why not work with other people, rather than against them? I think the battles you’ve picked have been unwise. I prefer to do battle with the corporations which have seized control of our civil society. If you want to argue about what the law really is, you can go to court and do it there. I gather you’ve got a hearing date coming up? Good luck to you, you’re going to need it, in exceptional quantities.
Due to the lengthy comment thread on this post, largely put up by friends of Dominic Lohan, I’m adding some more detail of Dominic Lohan’s absurd behaviour. Here he is, illegally filming a court hearing which he declined to defend, preferring to disrupt proceedings from the public gallery instead:
The day after I posted this, Dominic Lohan attempted to ruin Occupy’s credibility by posting an article in the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, which was given over to Occupy for the day. Luckily, Mr Lohan’s views are so facile that it has been easy to rescue the situation. If anything, he may have done us all a favour by sticking his ignorant neck above the proverbial parapet at last. Commentators more famous than me have rushed in to finish him off.
Read Carl Gardner’s “The law is not the enemy of protest but an essential tool of impartiality“ and Legal Bizzle’s “The freeman-on-the-land strategy is no magic bullet for debt problems“.