Young and angry – and with something to say
TODAY marks a week since a dozen demonstrators set up camp outside the Turner Contemporary gallery, a symbol of Margate's recent regeneration.
While welcoming the progress made in Thanet, the movement called Occupy Thanet seeks to draw attention to the continued decline and deprivation in certain communities.
More than 30 people have taken part in the protest so far with a hardcore of a dozen campaigners staying on site at a time and others helping with food, water and supplies to the camp.
The group hail from across the district and represent a range of ages and backgrounds.
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At Occupy Thanet, Jonny (the protesters refuse to give their surnames, claiming the movement is not about individuals but collective action) works full-time in Margate and joined the camp after seeing them set up last weekend.
He said: "The overwhelming response has been positive. People can see there are serious issues that need addressing and share our concerns.
"The odd person will moan about us and ask what we think we'll achieve but most who live in Thanet seem to share our views."
Visitors to the camp so far include Thanet North MP Roger Gale, district councillors and Channel 4 News anchor Jon Snow.
The protesters raise local issues like the Arlington House Tesco development and link them to the wider debate on austerity and responsible capitalism.
Occupy Thanet plan a series of events to publicise their campaign and speak to those affected by the economic downturn and public sector cuts.
An unemployed 30-something protestor from Westgate named Chris said: "There are so few jobs out there in Thanet and many vacancies that are advertised require specialist qualifications and experience that few people have.
"Young people are stuck at the moment as they don't have the experience or skills to get into work."
Another protestor, Emily, 19, pointed out the two-tier nature of Thanet's education system.
She said: "The three grammar schools select all the top students and the rest tend to be left behind."
The camp seeks to articulate the frustration they say many people feel with the failure of governments and councils to address inequality.
Occupy points to the lack of appetite of governments for tackling corporate greed or councils to address local issues. Occupy Thanet is particularly concerned with the proposed Tesco superstore on Margate seafront and proposed Kent County Council cuts to youth and social services.
Kent County Council announced last week that it needs to find £340 million of savings over the next three years with several unpopular cuts to support for schools (£33 million over three years), adult social care (one per cent increase in charges) and libraries. Many of Kent County Council's cuts, driven through from Maidstone, are top-sliced and activists believe this means impoverished east Kent districts such as Thanet will bear the brunt. It does not go unnoticed that only one woman and one east Kent councillor (from Canterbury) is in the cabinet at County Hall.
The recent public KCC budget consultation asked just six people in Thanet to chose between a range of several unpalatable cuts in services at a time when central government has withdrawn funding.
The venue, Turner Contemporary, initially objected as protestors blocked the disabled entrance to the gallery but Occupy Thanet agreed to move away from the entrance.
David Yard, head of communications at Turner Contemporary, said: "While we support the right of the Occupy Thanet group to exercise their free speech, they are in no way linked to Turner Contemporary and they do not represent our views.
"We have spoken with representatives of Occupy Thanet and they assure us that their event will not impact on gallery visitors."
Local businesses seem largely ambivalent to the protest, indeed some have benefited from the protest as activists buy hot food and drink from nearby shops.
Despite being portrayed as anti-capitalists, the Occupy movement simply seeks greater regulation and alternatives to spending cuts to stimulate the economy and create jobs.
Inspired by North African revolutions in last year's Arab Spring uprising, the Occupy movement soon spread across the world.
From occupations of Wall Street in New York to the London Stock Exchange protest in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral, demonstrators seek to spark debate on the banking crisis, austerity and regulation of big business.
A central goal of the Occupy movement is simply to stimulate debate about the world we live in.
With temperatures tumbling further below zero this weekend, the resolve of the campaign will be tested to the limit this weekend. Spare a thought for the few brave souls who simply want to share their views.