The City of London Corporation - the executive body representing the district in the UK’s capital - has re-launched its legal bid to evict protestors who have been encamped around St Paul’s Cathedral since October 15 after saying that negotiations with the protestors had collapsed.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange camp caused controversy and much soul searching two weeks ago when first the Cannon Chancellor of the cathedral, Giles Fraser, resigned in protest at proposed legal moves to evict the demonstrators and then the Dean of the cathedral, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, resigned over his handling of the affair. The Bishop of London the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, then took the decision to allow the camp to stay where it was until at least the New Year.
In a statement released on its website, the Corporation of London said its Planning & Highways committee decided at a meeting on Tuesday morning to re-commence the legal process to move tents off the highway at St Paul’s after hearing legal advice on its Highways Act responsibilities – and the needs of other City users including disrupted businesses.
Stuart Fraser, Policy Chairman of the City of London Corporation, said after the meeting: “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.
“So, sadly, now they have rejected a reasonable offer to let them stay until the New Year, it’s got to be the courts. We’d still like to sort this without court action but from now on we will have to have any talks in parallel with court action – not instead.”
The Corporation claimed it was receiving reports about vulnerable people, cases of late-night drinking and “other worrying trends,”
“Lawful protesters who stand or walk are a regular part of London. But tents, equipment and now, increasingly, quite a lot of mess, is not what a highway is for and others are losing out.”
In one of the more embarrassing incidents for the authorities, a City of London police officer was discovered in the camp by his colleagues last week after a night of heavy drinking to celebrate passing a firearms examination. He had earlier been thrown out of the Savoy Hotel in central London where he was due to be staying overnight and, according to press reports, wandered up to the enacampment where demonstrators took pity on him and gave him a tent in which to sleep.
Members of the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp tweeted their disappointment that the Corporation of London had chosen to "break off the process of dialogue" but appeared less than surprised.
A notice to tent users is likely to follow on Wednesday. The decision comes on the one month anniversary of the demonstrations and less than 24 hours after a number of Occupy London Stock Exchange protestors were said to have disrupted the annual Lord Mayor of London’s Guildhall reception at which the Prime Minister is the guest speaker.
Seven people were charged with a number of public order offences relating to the demonstration outside the Guildhall, which saw demonstrators don evening suits and ball gowns along with pig masks.
The legal move also comes within hours of police moving in to clear the Occupy Wall Street protest camp in Zuccotti Park in New York.
The police action started at around 1 a.m. New York time, and before 4 a.m., city sanitation workers had completely cleared the park of tents. A recorded message from an NYPD vehicle kept repeating that protesters had to vacate the park "temporarily."
Streets in New York's financial district were being reopened Tuesday morning as workers in the financial district were beginning to arrive in commuter buses. Sanitation workers were hosing down Zucotti Park.
Earlier, New York sanitation workers threw protesters' makeshift camps into a dumpster while police told protesters that they could return to the park.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said protesters could use the park but must follow the rules — which do not allow for tents and sleeping bags, regulations that essentially make Zuccotti off limits for the prolonged encampment staged by the protesters.
"The law that created Zuccotti Park required that it be open for the public to enjoy for passive recreation 24 hours a day," Bloomberg said in a statement.
"Ever since the occupation began, that law has not been complied with, as the park has been taken over by protestors, making it unavailable to anyone else."
Occupy London Stock Exchange protestors said they planned to demonstrate outside the US Embassy in London on Tuesday afternoon to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street Movement.