City officials resume Occupy London eviction moves

AP News
Posted: Nov 15, 2011 1:04 PM
City officials resume Occupy London eviction moves

Authorities in London said Tuesday they were resuming legal action to evict a protest camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral after talks with the demonstrators stalled.

More than 200 tents have been pitched outside the iconic church for a month in a protest inspired by New York's Occupy Wall Street.

The cathedral and local authority the City of London Corporation suspended legal action to remove the camp two weeks ago, and offered the protesters a deal to allow them to stay until the new year if they then agreed to leave.

The protesters said they have not agreed to this, and the corporation said Tuesday it would restart legal action.

The move is not connected to the clearing by police overnight of the Occupy Wall Street site in New York's Zuccotti Park.

"We paused legal action for two weeks for talks with those in the camp on how to shrink the extent of the tents and to set a departure date _ but got nowhere," said Stuart Fraser, the corporation's policy chairman.

"So, sadly, now they have rejected a reasonable offer to let them stay until the new year, it's got to be the courts."

The corporation said legal action "is likely to take weeks" and no enforcement action would be taken in the meantime.

"It will clearly take time but we are determined to see this through," Fraser said.

A spokesman for the cathedral, which owns some of the land the protesters are camped on, said its governing chapter would meet Wednesday to consider its next move.

The London protest started Oct. 15 after the demonstrators were prevented from remaining on private property near the London Stock Exchange, their original target.

Cathedral authorities were tolerant at first, then closed the 300-year-old church for a time citing health and safety issues, then threatened legal action before backing down. The cathedral's dean and a senior priest have both resigned over the mishandled crisis.

There has been little friction between the protest camp and police, although seven Occupy protesters were arrested Monday outside the Guildhall in London's financial district, where Prime Minister David Cameron was giving a speech.

A group of the protesters, who condemn corporate greed and capitalist excess, demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in London on Tuesday afternoon to condemn the New York protest clearance.

The London protesters said they are hopeful that authorities will not use force to remove their camp.

"It is more likely they will take the legal route as opposed to a violent eviction like New York," said Occupy London spokesman Spyro Van Leemnen.