Evicted St Paul's protesters remain defiant
Tuesday 28 February 2012
Anti-capitalist protesters have warned that they will not be "derailed" after their camp was cleared from outside St Paul's Cathedral.
Occupy London pledged that it was "only the beginning" following the removal of the last protesters in the early hours of this morning after four and a half months camped outside the landmark cathedral.
The group said plans were "already afoot" of "some ambition" in response to the eviction.
"All will be revealed in time. May is one of our favourite months," they wrote on the Occupy London website.
"The relationships forged during these strange and beautiful four and a half months still have much further to run," they added.
"This is only the beginning."
City of London police, who were supported by the Met, said 23 arrests were made during the "largely peaceful" eviction as bailiffs from City of London Corporation removed tents and equipment from outside St Paul's.
The action was taken five days after Occupy London was refused permission by the Court of Appeal to challenge orders evicting protesters.
Stuart Fraser, policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, said: "It is regrettable that it had to come to the need for removal but the High Court judgment speaks for itself.
"The site has now been cleared and the area is undergoing a deep clean."
Granting orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London at the High Court last month, Mr Justice Lindblom said the proposed action by the City of London Corporation - which it pledged not to enforce pending appeal - was "entirely lawful and justified", as well as necessary and proportionate.
The appeal judges, headed by Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger, said the protesters had raised no arguable case.
The corporation called on campers to remove their tents voluntarily.
Although some remained on site when police arrived, many began dismantling the equipment before bailiffs moved in.
Gary Sherborne, 50, said: "We haven't got any choice and I'd rather protect the tent for another day without it being destroyed by the bailiffs."
Meanwhile, a group of protesters remained defiant, waving flags and banging tambourines on top of a makeshift wooden structure facing the cathedral.
The platform was eventually dismantled by bailiffs after police in riot gear surrounded it. Campaigners were also cleared from the steps of the cathedral.
An Occupy London spokesman said its School of Ideas in a disused school building in Islington, north London, had also been evicted.
Supporter Kai Wargalla, a 27-year-old student from Germany who has been camping at St Paul's since the occupation began on October 15, said: "It's really sad what's happening today but I think we can be proud of what we've achieved. Our community is being attacked here, but we're going to reconvene and come back stronger."
She said many of the campers from St Paul's planned to go to one of the group's other sites in Finsbury Square instead, and extra tents would be put up following the unexpected eviction from the School of Ideas.
Ms Wargalla was one of a number of trained "legal observers" who were monitoring the eviction process on behalf of the campaigners and reminding them of their rights.
Commenting on the eviction, Ms Wargalla said: "We hadn't expected to be evicted from the cathedral steps because previously the church has said it would give us sanctuary when there's a violent eviction.
"There was also some really unnecessary tension and stress caused by the police when they told us we had five minutes to take our things from the camp."
She added: "It wasn't that violent today, but the violence we did see came from the police and the bailiffs."
The protest forced a week-long closure of the cathedral in late October, the first time it had been closed since the Second World War, after officials received a report by health and safety officials.
During the closure, the cathedral's Canon Chancellor Dr Giles Fraser resigned, saying he feared the church was set on a course of action which could lead to protesters being moved by force.
The Dean of St Paul's also later resigned. The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles said it had been "a testing time" and mounting criticism made it "increasingly clear" that his position was "untenable".
Dr Fraser attacked the eviction saying it was a "sad day" for the Church of England.
"Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral was a terrible sight. This is a sad day for the Church," he said.
St Paul's later issued a statement saying: "The police did not ask for permission from us regarding any aspect of the action taken last night, but we were clear that we would not stand in the way of the legal process or prevent the police from taking the steps they needed to deal with the situation in an orderly and peaceful manner."
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