Friday, March 02, 2012

SchNEWS reports on Occupy LSX eviction

Four and a half months after its conception, Occupy London was dealt two severe
blows on Monday (27th) as the camp at St Paul's Cathedral and the School of Ideas
were evicted in one busy night for the Met and City of London police. What happens
next is anyones guess as OccupyLSX themselves have stated.This morning, the City of
London Corporation and St Paul's Cathedral have dismantled a camp and displaced a
small community, but they will not derail a movement..

While the eviction of St Paul's was not entirely unexpected, the apparent
cooperation of the Cathedral with the authorities was one aspect that took activists
and observers by surprise. Meanwhile, the School of Ideas was illegally evicted
without any hint of due legal process - and incredibly was demolished by bulldozers
in the early hours of the same morning. Around 20 people were arrested during the
events.

SchNEWS was on the ground at the scene, where the first sign of imminent eviction
was the scores of riot vans from both the Met and City of London police which
started to gather at around midnight outside the Museum of London, just a few
minutes from the protest site. People began to flock from all over London, and from
the other two Occupy sites (School of Ideas, Finsbury Park), to join the resistance.
However, within the space of half an hour police had cordoned off every road leading
to the encampment, stopping people from entering the area. A lucky few managed to
sneak in, and the rest gathered in crowds at all the access points, held back by the
police lines.

Inside the cordon were about 150 occupiers and their supporters, some protecting
their tents, others on a massive platform built from palettes where Tent University
once stood, and more gathered on the steps of the cathedral. People had been told
that the police had no right to evict from the steps as they were cathedral
property, and the cathedral had promised to not give them permission. However, the
church's later ambiguous statements said that the steps were being cleared for
"cleaning".

The camp was given half an hour to remove their stuff and go. Although with around
ten massive dumpster lorries were parked around the site to chuck people's
belongings into, it was clear the police and their goons weren.t so into respecting
property. Fifty or so security "guards" were there to remove all trace of the camp,
and there were as many as a hundred riot cops hanging around in squadrons while
vans, also full of cops, lined the surrounding streets. No time was wasted as the
high court enforcement officers in hi-vis started to drag tents, bags, blankets,
kitchen equipment and palettes into the waiting trucks. Lines of cops were formed
around the site, the people on the steps, and the tents. Outnumbered so heavily by
the authorities, people were left watching the process happen with little they could
do but shout "Shame on you". Some managed to rescue blankets and sleeping bags for
those who were going to be left on the streets that night.

Things went from bad to worse at about 1.30am, as the message came through that the
School of Ideas was being evicted at the same time. As one activist told us, "No
attempt whatsoever had been made by the authorities to follow the correct legal
process, no IPOs had been granted, no court papers at all had been issued, so
eviction was totally unexpected". A number of those at St Paul's left to try and
stop the eviction, and also to try and save their belongings. With numbers of
activists inside the cordon dwindling, the media had caught up and collected in the
area to document the spectacle.

Soon all that remained was the platform in the middle of the site with twenty people
on top, out of reach of the bailiffs. Riot cops formed rings around the platform,
pushing the activists out, but bizarrely allowing the press and photographers to
remain inside. The bailiffs started to pull apart the structure, managing to take
out a few photographers with palettes as they went.

By 3am, the structure was down to a bare skeleton of planks of wood, and ? fteen
lads remained balanced on top. The hi-vis destructors went in for the kill. After
much tussling, all were chucked off, with some bailiffs going arse over elbow as
well as protesters. People regrouped on the steps of the cathedral. What followed
was a bit like a playground game: The next hour was spent with police dragging
people off the steps and dumping them on the other side of the road, only for them
to run back and then be dragged off again. This lasted for a fair while but by 5am,
the remaining protesters were left grouped on the other side of the road next to the
pile of belongings they had managed to salvage. A fence now surrounds the old
protest site, leaving access to the cathedral only. As for the people, the overflow
from St Paul's and the School of Ideas has now flooded Finsbury Square, the last
remaining static Occupy site. Some are speculating that the decision to evict both
other !
sites on the same night was a calculated ploy by the City of London to cause an
issue of overcrowding at Finsbury Square, which, up until now, the police have been
able to do little about. Coming under the jurisdiction of Hackney Borough Council,
the camp has been allowed to stay, mainly because the council doesn't have the
funds to evict. An agreement had been reached that the site would be turned into an
ecovillage project, but now the council has made the ultimatum that if extra
residents don't leave, the agreement will be withdrawn.

Squatters and activists from the Occupy movement have been tirelessly searching for
empty buildings to take the homeless occupiers, but with the City of London police
watching, filming, and recording everyone's movements, it's proving difficult. The
question of what occupy will be with much less in the way of actual occupations will
become clear over the coming weeks. In one of their typically flamboyant press
releases, OLSX assures:

"Plans are already afoot: plans of some ambition, employing a diversity of tactics
and delivered with the aplomb you would expect from us. All will be revealed in
time. May is one of our favourite months..."
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Undercurrents is an award winning alternative news service producing videos of people taking inspiring actions. http://www.undercurrents.org

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