Police Dismantle Occupy London Camp

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Common Dreams

Police Dismantle Occupy London Camp

Occupiers vow: "This is only the beginning."

by
Common Dreams staff

A protester is carried away by police at the Occupy protest camp outside Saint Paul's Cathedral in central London. (photo: AFP)

Police have dismantled the Occupy London Camp outside St Paul's Cathedral arresting 20 people early this morning. But occupiers have vowed, "This is only the beginning."

The BBC reports:

The City of London Corporation said it "regretted" that it had become necessary to evict the protesters.

Occupy London, which campaigns against corporate greed, set up the camp on 15 October.

The campaigners were refused permission to appeal against a High Court decision to allow their eviction to proceed. [...]

The High Court decided last week that the City of London Corporation's move to evict the camp was "lawful and justified".

The corporation was granted orders of possession and injunctions by the court.

The Court of Appeal's decision not to allow an appeal meant the corporation was free to clear the site.

The Guardian reports on what happened when the police arrived at the camp:

Police and bailiffs moved in to begin clearing the Occupy London encampment in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Activists protesting against the financial and banking elite were told by bailiffs that they had five minutes to pack their tents and leave or they would be obstructing a court order.

Dozens of activists started clearing away tents and belongings, but others began building a barricaded enclosure using wooden pallets and debris.

Hundreds of police officers with riot helmets ready by their sides and dozens of bailiffs in yellow vests waited alongside rubbish lorries and watched the eviction.

One protester, Ed Greens from north London, said he had been with Occupy since last year. "We were expecting them on Monday night or soon after," he said. "Some people will resist things like this, but for me personally there is nothing wrong with self-defence."

At midnight five spotlights illuminated the square as the standoff continued. At 2am the lights were briefly switched off. When turned on again, four people, believed by protesters to be police officers, were standing on the balcony of the cathedral. Soon after, police revealed to press that they had the cathedral's permission to remove protesters from its steps.

"I was shocked to see policemen on the balcony," said Naomi Colvin, a spokeswoman for Occupy. "It seemed to be collusion. Tammy [another activist] just gave an interview saying how betrayed she felt when she learned the cathedral gave permission for us to be removed from its steps.

"That wasn't covered in the high court orders – it's like St Paul's has learned nothing from the last four months."

The canon chancellor of St Paul's, Giles Fraser, resigned in October over attempts by the cathedral to remove protesters by compulsion. Fraser was on the edge of the eviction, but police refused to let him cross a cordon to get closer.

Shortly after 3am police removed around a dozen demonstrators standing on kitchen shelving as a makeshift fortress as other riot officers with shields advanced along the cathedral steps removing protesters, some of whom were praying.

Among those protesters was Jonathan Bartley, director of the Christian thinktank Ekklesia, who claimed he was kicked repeatedly by police and dragged away from the cathedral.

"What happened is a great sadness – it is exactly as Giles Fraser warned might happen," he said.

"The tragedy is that while Christians were praying on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral, the cathedral gave permission for them to be forcibly and violently removed. The cathedral has backed and colluded in this eviction."

Video below from Jason N Parkinson/reportdigital.co.uk shows the clearing of the camp:

Occupy London has said the dismantling of the camp can't "derail a movement:"

This morning, the City of London Corporation and St Paul’s Cathedral have dismantled a camp and displaced a small community, but they will not derail a movement. [...]

The natural question to rush to in these moments is “what next?” In the short term, there will be a GA at 7pm on Tuesday by the steps of St Paul’s. In the medium term, it is only right that people will need time to rest, reflect and recharge, to take stock and learn the lessons of the past four and a half months. But be assured that plans are already afoot: plans of some ambition, employing a diversity of tactics and delivered with the aplomb you would expect from us. All will be revealed in time. May is one of our favourite months.

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