High Court: Occupy London Protesters Can Be Evicted from St. Paul’s Cathedral

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On Wednesday afternoon in London, high court judge Justice Lindblom handed down the decision in the eviction case brought by the City of London against the Occupy protesters. The verdict was bad news for the protesters: the tents had to go.

The decision followed a five-day hearing, which took place last month, when the judge heard why the City of London wanted the protest camp to leave St. Paul’s Cathedral premises. There, since October 15, the eclectic group had set up camp to protest corporate greed and corruption, joining a worldwide movement that saw sister protests taking place in New York, Madrid and Rome. Since then, the City of London has waged an ongoing, and very public, campaign to remove the camp. The most recent attempt was this hearing, when the City’s legal team argued that the band of tents raised legitimate issues of sanitation, safety and vandalism.

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While giving his verdict, Justice Lindblom said that “no one has doubted the cause, the sincerity or the passion” of the protesters. However, he continued, the city had an understandable concern with Occupy London and had given the group “ample opportunity to remove the protest camp.” The judge also added his own thoughts on the Occupy London protesters who had attended the court proceedings: “Whilst I recognize that this outcome will be disappointing to the defendants, I wish to pay tribute to all who participated in the hearing for the courteous and helpful way in which they conducted themselves.” The judge also allowed the protesters seven days to appeal the ruling, which, with Britain’s notorious appeals process, could draw the issue out over many more months.

If the protesters don’t appeal the ruling — though numerous protesters have already reported they plan to — and the camp doesn’t willingly move, a lawyer for the city has said they would be compelled to start “considering enforcement action.”

The protest camp seems to be weighing their options on how to respond. If they choose to stay, the otherwise peaceful movement might be clouded with confrontation. New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement was engulfed in conflict in November, when the NYPD pulled a late-night raid of Zuccotti Park, where the group was camped. More than 70 people were arrested. While London’s response to the worldwide protest has generally been less fraught than New York’s, a clash between protesters and police is not out of the question at St. Paul’s. Certainly, recent events suggest that the City is ready to force the group out. Just two days ago, officers descended on the peace protest camp outside of London’s Parliament Square, evicting and arresting a group that had been set up for more than a decade. (One activist, Maria Gallastegiu, has been allowed to remain camped out, as she won a well-timed injunction against the removal.) Three people were arrested and nearly 30 camps were removed, according to the BBC.

Yet much like the protesters who lived outside Parliament for years, and the tens of thousands of Occupy protesters around the world, the Occupy London camp has come to be known for its uncompromising commitment to challenging those in power. Whether the protest is cleared by force or dragged through the courts, it’s almost a certainty that Occupy London will carry on in some form.

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