Reclaiming the library: occupation, protest, and the neoliberal public space

As all activists will know, the journey through a political campaign is a difficult one: failures, frustrations and the delight of unexpected successes – if not always in equal measure. This article follows a six month campaign of sit ins and occupations at the Library of Birmingham from the shortening of the opening hours in April of 2015 through to the most recent occupation, at the time of writing, in mid-October. A student led, unaffiliated, and ostensibly single issue campaign; the Library of Birmingham became a beacon of intersecting interests that brought together a rich diversity of people, many of whom were new to protest of any kind, and in so doing shone a light on the impact of left organisation and solidarity in the face of generational cuts and privatisations. It has laid out the humanity and potential of collective action, but also the difficulties of organising the shared identity, wider ideology, and sense of urgency that might bring such potential to revolutionary realisation.

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