UK court battle to evict St. Paul's protesters

AP News
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Posted: Nov 23, 2011 12:40 PM
UK court battle to evict St. Paul's protesters

The City of London corporation took a step Wednesday to evict protesters camped outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London, insisting in court that the issue is not about protecting banks but protecting the rights and freedoms of others.

The organization _ which controls the area around St. Paul's _ says the ongoing Occupy London protest camp is harming nearby businesses. It also says protesters are drinking late into the night and creating an unpleasant atmosphere. It wants Britain's High Court to issue an eviction notice to force the protesters to move.

"The City's position is: Peaceful protest? Of course, yes. Permanent encampment? No," lawyer David Forsdick told Judge Alan Wilkie at London's High Court.

Protesters packed the public gallery and back of the courtroom during the hearing, which was held to set a timetable for the proceedings in December.

Forsdick said the city is not fighting to protect the banks or to prevent peaceful protests against the financial sector.

"Nor is it bringing these claims to stifle freedom of speech," he added.

He said the decision to evict the protesters came after careful consideration showed there is "a pressing social need in order to protect the rights and freedoms of others."

The nonviolent Occupy London protest against capitalist excess was inspired by New York's Occupy Wall Street movement. Protesters have camped outside St. Paul's since mid-October and say they will fight any legal bid to evict them.

Their proximity to Christopher Wren's 300-year-old icon has embroiled the church in a conflict between bank-bashing protesters and the city's finance industry. The church's position on the protesters has shifted several times, and the cathedral's dean and a senior priest have both resigned over the crisis.