St Paul's protesters stay put


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The Independent Online

Not one person has left the protest camp outside St Paul's Cathedral since a legal eviction notice was served giving them 24 hours to quit, activists said.

The City of London Corporation yesterday told the protesters to move tents and equipment from the public highway by 6pm today or face High Court action.

Instead of packing up, protesters were this afternoon discussing putting up Christmas decorations as they prepare for a lengthy legal battle.

A spokesman for the camp said he was not aware of anyone leaving the site outside the cathedral, where anti-capitalist protesters have been pitched since October 15, and no efforts had been made to move tents.

"I've even heard people talking about when to put up Christmas decorations," he said.

"We have a legal team in place. We would ask that the City of London Corporation step up and enter into dialogue with us.

"These tactics are deflecting from the real issues."

John Cooper QC, who is representing the protest camp pro bono, will meet protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral later today.

Then, at 6pm, protesters will mark the passing of the corporation's deadline by raising hands in silence for one minute, Mr McNern said: "This will signify that we are still here, we have a just cause, and the City of London Corporation, the banks, the Government, need to engage with us."

Nathan Cravens, 27, who runs the camp library, said: "The general feeling is excitement at the moment. It's brought us together."

He said there is "concern" among protesters at the camp, but the overall emotion was "positive": "For me, I'll leave the day they say they're going to evict."

Speaking about the break-up of the Occupy camp in New York, Mr Cravens said: "The concern is that it will set a precedent."

Samuel Carlisle, 23, added: "The spirit of people who are occupying won't be broken. If they are physically prevented from going back to the site, even if numbers increase and things get very violent, I suspect they can occupy another site very near by and continue with business as usual.

"It's not about holding ground, it should never be about holding a territory, it's about occupying. It's the idea that's taken root."

The City of London Corporation, the local authority which runs the Square Mile, has expressed concern over "worrying trends" at the camp, including late-night drinking, and said companies near the Cathedral had complained about losing business.

Some of the tents are pitched on the footpath next to the shops surrounding the Cathedral, with the remainder in the gounds of St Paul's itself.

A spokeswoman for the Cathedral - which has ditched its own proposed legal action - said it was looking for a "peaceful resolution" but admitted it had faced "challenges" since the camp was pitched a month ago.

The City of London Corporation's notices, which were attached to tents yesterday afternoon, said: "If any tents and other structures remain after 6pm on Thursday 17 November 2011, proceedings for possession and injunctions will be issued in the High Court of Justice without further notice.

"If granted, this would mean that you would be ordered by the High Court to remove the tents and any failure to do so could be a contempt of court."

The Corporation decided to resume legal action after two weeks of talks with protesters.

Stuart Fraser, policy chairman of the Corporation, said legal action was "paused" for two weeks for talks which "got nowhere".