Monday, March 05, 2012

St Paul’s Occupy evicted

AROUND 100 bailiffs backed by 300 riot police moved into the area around St Paul’s Cathedral in the middle of the night last Monday to clear away the Occupy protesters’ camp after all legal procedures to prevent the eviction had failed.
 Most of the campers left peacefully but a few put up a fight and there were over 20 arrests as the bailiffs dismantled the tents and threw them, along with placards and banners into rubbish lorries.
 The Rev Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul's in support of the protesters, said: "This is a sad day for the Church. Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral was a terrible sight."
 He added: "In the past few months, we have all been made to re-examine important issues about social and economic justice and the role the cathedral can play.
 The anti-capitalist encampment began on 15th  October, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement as a protest at the greed and selfishness of the richest one per cent that has caused the global economic crisis and condemned millions of working people around the world to unemployment, homelessness and misery.
 The campers had intended to occupy the London stock exchange but found that barred and settled down instead just outside in the area around the cathedral.
 At first the Church allowed them to stay while the City of London Corporation was determined to evict the camp.
 The campers organised a kitchen, sanitation and waste arrangements as well as a library, debates and classes.
 The Church became internally divided on the issue but was eventually pressured by the City into seeking the eviction of the encampment.
 Meanwhile the camp had attracted not only protesters but homeless people in search of warmth, food and company.
 Women’s refuges, suffering from funding cuts and over filled, in desperation advised women fleeing domestic violence that the camp would be a safe place to be.
 The campers had to extend their role from protesters to become social workers.
 Protesters also occupied some other sites and now have a larger camp at Finsbury Park.
 The Occupy the London Stock Exchange (OLSX) protesters are now considering a Cathedral proposal to host official “general assemblies” on the steps outside the central London building.
 Under the plans, the anti-capitalist group would host debates and meetings on the cathedral’s steps once a week on a Saturday afternoon.
 The debates, backed by cathedral officials, would last a couple of hours but would finish by 5pm in time for evening church services.
 Monday’s eviction came after the movement lost a Court of Appeal challenge to orders to leave the area following a lengthy legal dispute.
 Islington Council, which owns the Finsbury Park site, said on Monday that while peaceful protests were supported, the camp did not have permission for its new camp.
 Mayor of London Boris Johnson said the eviction meant "the law had finally taken its course".

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