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OccupyLSX wires up tech for St Paul's protest

In a tent city in St Paul's Cathedral grounds, OccupyLSX has pulled together a network, a petrol generator and the skills of volunteer web developers to gather support for its cause

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1 of 5 Tom Espiner/ZDNet UK

OccupyLSX camp at St Paul's

As the Occupy Wall Street protest in New York spreads around the globe, ZDNet UK visited the London offshoot, OccupyLSX, to see how the group is using technology to share its message over social media and to keep participants engaged.

The Occupy protest initially attempted to occupy Paternoster Square — the home of the London Stock Exchange — but eventually settled with their tents outside St Paul's Cathedral, with the blessing of the church's leaders. However, on Friday, the Dean of St Paul's announced the cathedral and its grounds would be closed to worshippers for health and safety reasons, due to the size of the protesters' camp.

Within hours of the announcement, OccupyLSX posted its own statement on its swiftly built website, keeping supporters informed via its Twitter account @occupyLSX and its Facebook page in the meantime. To garner support and help get out its call for global equality, the group is making the most of technology and social media channels.

Earlier in the week, ZDNet UK caught up with protesters as they set up the systems needed to organise the group's activities. Electronic engineer Samuel Carlisle, known as 'Samthetechie', was on hand to explain how the Sukey mash-up app he created alongside others is used to chart events in London, as it is at the Occupy Wall Street site in New York.

"The Sukey [OWS] map got more than 60,000 hits in just a few hours," Carlisle said on Tuesday. “So as soon as we're set up here, that's one of the first things we need to do. The police look all peaceful now, but who knows how long that will last. It's good to know which routes are being blocked."

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2 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet UK

OccupyLSX tech tent

On the London site, the protestors have an "enterprise-class" router and a host of USB dongles to keep them online and in touch with people via social media, Carlisle said, as the group were setting up the tech tent.

"It's multi-in, multi-out [MIMO]," he said. "I think I could provide Wi-Fi for the whole site. I don't want to call [the network] 'OccupyLSX', though. I'd rather it was something friendlier, more like 'Home Hub'."

Carlisle said there are as many as seven off-site web designers working on the OccupyLSX site.

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3 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet UK

People's Party bike

Helping to keep spirits high is the 12-volt 'People's Party' bike: a sound system, generator and speakers on wheels. As with other 'Occupy' movements in New York and San Francisco, the London group has a wish list of materials, and getting a live videostream online is quite high on Carlisle's priority list.

"It's about allowing small things to just happen and creating a situation where that can happen in a shared space, and creating [technology] ecosystems to facilitate that, to make sure people can always be doing things like Tweeting," he said.

On Friday, the group put out an appeal for webcams and an HD video camera on its Twitter account. Previously, it called for donations of tables and chairs, a microphone and straw bales to muffle generators. Supporters have asked for coaches and drivers to help them travel to another site. The group has also shared information on topics such as fuel poverty and alerts followers to media appearances.

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4 of 5 Tom Espiner/ZDNet UK

OccupyLSX generator

Powering the smattering of laptops and smartphones being used to get the message out is a single 2.4KW petrol generator, with hopes of a second on the way.

"In an ideal world, we'd be able to get a weather-proof extension lead into St Paul's," Carlisle said.

The group decided against using bike generators, as each one would have cost £2,000 for 200W, people at the camp told ZDNet UK. They worked out it would cost £22,000 to boil a kettle.

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5 of 5 Ben Woods/ZDNet

OccupyLSX solar panels

These 60W solar panels power the lights in the prayer tent in the camp.

Credit and contributions: Tom Espiner/ZDNet UK


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