City wins legal bid to evict Occupy London protesters
Judge’s ruling means ‘Tent City’ at St Paul’s can be cleared next week
The demonstrators camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral are discussing whether to resist eviction after a High Court judge ruled today that their “Tent City” protest could be cleared as early as next week.
Demonstrators reacted with dismay and some of those in court indicated they would disobey the order, while others said it would be a decision "each individual has to take". A spokesman for the movement insisted in the weeks prior to the ruling that there would be "no Dale Farm-style resistance" to an eviction but a meeting was being held last night to discuss the movement's response.
Luke Wilkins, a 33-year-old Occupy protester from Reading, said: "I will base my decision on whether I think we have had a fair hearing. It is a decision I will make in peace and quiet when the time comes. It is entirely up to the individual, it is their choice alone."
Tammy Samede, a protester who appeared in court on behalf of the movement, said it would continue to "peacefully protest", adding: "This is not the end. Onwards and upwards."
The protesters' lawyer, John Cooper, said: "This is an important judgment. It marks the start of a legal analysis as to the extent of protest in this country. What Occupy has done is push the boundaries of public law on protest."
Mr Justice Lindblom granted orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London, which has attracted support from civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson, Dame Vivienne Westwood and Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. The judge said the proposed eviction was "lawful and justified" as well as necessary and proportionate. He ruled anyone who attempted to reinstate the occupation or move it to a site around the corner faced a fine or jail.
Lawyers for the demonstrators confirmed they would take their case to the Court of Appeal and were given seven working days to do so, meaning eviction proceedings cannot begin until next Friday afternoon at the earliest.
"The basis of our appeal will be that the order was not the least intrusive way to address the pressing social need [to evict the demonstrators]," the barrister Michael Paget, who also represented the protesters, said. "The judge could have made an order just requiring the tents to be removed every night and not during the day.
"He has considered this very carefully over five days and we hope the same sensible approach will be taken in other courts with occupations due to appear there soon."
A spokeswoman confirmed talks were ongoing with the Cathedral about a lasting, symbolic demonstration. She said it could be a tent pitched inside the Cathedral.
The City of London Corporation, which brought the case for their eviction, said that the Cathedral had been "desecrated" by the protest and "graffiti have been scratched and painted" on it and "human defecation" was found on its grounds. Lawyers for the authority also said "alcohol and other stimulants" fuel noise levels that have caused complaints.
Dr Giles Fraser, who resigned as Canon Chancellor of St Paul's rather than see protesters evicted by force, said in a statement: "This judgment is disappointing. In a world where there is such a gap between rich and poor, the voice of protest needs continually to be heard. The church must not be seen to side with the 1 per cent."
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