Defeated in the courts, protesters leave without a fight

They battled hard in the courts, but in the end the inhabitants of the Democracy Village put up little resistance when the bailiffs finally moved in.

Shortly after 1am yesterday, a squad of approximately 60 people, dressed in high-visibility jackets and helmets, moved on to Parliament Square to evict the motley coalition of anti-war protesters and rough sleepers who had taken over the patch of grass outside the Palace of Westminster since 1 May.

It was the culmination of an ongoing battle between the temporary inhabitants and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who went to the courts to argue that the camp was "becoming an eyesore" and should be cleared.

Free speech campaigners decried the decision by the Court of Appeal last week to press ahead with an eviction, arguing that the judiciary had clamped down on free speech simply because politicians had lamented the aesthetics of the camp.

The bailiffs themselves, backed up by a squad of police officers, launched the eviction in the middle of the night to avoid any disruption to the morning rush-hour traffic. Last year, when the police tried to remove an ongoing protest by the Tamil diaspora, scores of protesters spilled out onto the roads around Westminster, bringing central London to a temporary standstill and rallying thousands more to a cause that continued its protest for more than 40 days.

Although some of the Democracy Village inhabitants chained themselves to scaffolding with bike locks in protest at the eviction, most simply packed up and left. The Metropolitan Police said no arrests had been made and that their officers had only attended in a "supporting role to High Court enforcement officers".

Most of the camp's inhabitants had only pitched their tents over the past eight weeks, but others had been on Parliament Square for years. Maria Gallastegui, 51, has been holding a one-person vigil for Gaza for four years and was moved off the site last night.

"No-one was hurt but people were forcibly removed," she said. "There are certainly a few bruises. We were so tired and drained by being here for all this time – I think that was an element in them moving us on so quickly. There were clashes. I climbed up on some scaffolding, but the bailiffs were quite swift in moving in."

Brian Haw, the anti-war campaigner who has held a vigil outside Parliament since 2 June 2001, has been spared the eviction and will be allowed to continue his one-man protest.

Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster City Council, said: "Whilst it is right and proper that [the square] will always be a place where people can voice their opinions, we must find a way to help prevent it being hijacked by vociferous minorities whose primary intent seems to turn this UNESCO World Heritage Site into a squalid campsite."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner / Caretaker / Storeman

£15500 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has become available...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Sales - SaaS B2B

£60000 - £120000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This conference call startup i...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
Satya Nadella: As Windows 10 is launched can he return Microsoft to its former glory?

Satya Nadella: The man to clean up for Windows?

While Microsoft's founders spend their billions, the once-invincible tech company's new boss is trying to save it
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years