Occupy London: police and bailiffs move in to evict St Paul's protesters
Activists given five minutes to pack and leave after high court decision gives City of London green light to clear encampment
28 February, 2012, 01.58 GMT
Police and bailiffs have moved in to begin clearing the Occupy London encampment outside St Paul's Cathedral, after a high court decision gave the green light for the City of London to clear the protest site.
Activists were told by bailiffs that they had five minutes to pack their tents and leave or they would be obstructing a court order. The eviction began shortly after midnight.
Dozens of activists appeared ready to comply and started clearing away tents and other belongings, but a number of protesters immediately began building an improvised barricaded enclosure using wooden pallets and pieces of debris.
Hundreds of police officers in the immediate area of the square had riot helmets ready by their sides, and smaller detachments of riot officers carrying shields stood ready to one side.
Dozens of bailiffs in yellow vests waited alongside rubbish lorries, and police in blue overalls, who had riot helmets strapped to their sides, stood by and watched as many of the protesters started taking down their shelters.
One group, however, appeared ready to resist any attempts to remove them as police set up a cordon between the camp and the entrance to the cathedral. At midnight, five spotlights illuminated the square and the protesters as the standoff continued.
City of London and Metropolitan police cleared and then blocked roads around the square where protesters have been camping since late last year as part of a protest against the financial and banking elite.
Inside the small enclosure, which a number of activists had built up, one man let off a red smoke flare while nearby a speaker system pumped out music.
One protester, Ed Greens from north London, said he had been with Occupy since last year.
"We were expecting them on Monday night or soon after," he said. "Some people will resist things like this, but for me personally there is nothing wrong with self-defence."
Among those at the scene were Symon Hill, associate director of the Ekklesia thinktank, who said that the word had gone out for dozens of Christians to come to the scene as part of plans to put in place "a ring of prayer" in an attempt to halt any violence.
Catherine Brogan, a poet and high-profile member of the Occupy movement, said it made sense for the authorities to come on a Monday night.
"There was talk of prayer rings and of other people coming down to support us when this happened, but many of our supporters are elderly or obviously live in areas other than the centre of London, so this would have caught them by surprise," she said.
"This has always been a peaceful process, and it has never looked like turning into anything other than that," she added. "There's definitely no Molotov cocktails stashed, it is very timid. I just hope the police respect that, and don't react in the way I've seen them reacting at other times, at other protests."
Activists from the camp say they will take their case to the European court of human rights, but judges denied them a stay of eviction, and it is understood that the City of London Corporation, which brought the case against the protest camp, has has now acted to remove up to 100 tents from the grounds of the cathedral.
A City of London statement said last night: "We regret that it has come to this, but the high court judgment speaks for itself, and the court of appeal has confirmed that judgment. High court enforcement officers employed by the City of London Corporation are undertaking the removal with the police present to ensure public safety and maintain order. We would ask protesters to move on peaceably.
"The City of London Corporation is ensuring vulnerable people are being helped and supported to find appropriate accommodation in partnership with Broadway, a charity for the homeless."
Occupy London protesters accuse St Paul's of betrayal
City of London police say St Paul's gave them permission to remove activists from cathedral steps during eviction
St Paul's Cathedral has been accused of "betraying" Occupy London activists after giving the City of London police permission to remove protesters from its steps and end the four-and-a-half month camp.