Occupy London Stock Exchange demonstrators announced on Friday they had “repossessed” a building belonging to Swiss investment bank UBS in Hackney East London.
The direct action saw a dozen activists from the Occupy London campaign gain access to the empty building on Thursday evening as part of what they called the global fight for real democracy.
The demonstrators said doing so gave them a legal right to the building, which a spokesperson for the bank confirmed to CNCB.com was unoccupied.
“We are aware of the situation and as you can imagine we are taking appropriate action,” the spokesperson added.
Appropriate action in such a case amounts to legal steps to remove the protestors similar to those being employed by the City of London Corporation to remove demonstrators who have been camped to the side of St Paul’s Cathedral for the last month. First an eviction order must be obtained through the courts before any action to evict the demonstrators can take place.
Trespass is not a criminal offense in the UK unless it is carried out in a way that can be defined as Aggravated Trespass. In order for the police to charge any of the protestors with such an offence, they must be able to prove first that the occupier has taken steps to ask them to leave, and those accused of the offence have either damaged the property or have used threatening, abusive or insulting behavior to the occupier, the occupier's family, employees or agents or that between them they have six or more vehicles on the land.
The only other option is to take legal steps to remove the demonstrators on the ground that they are squatting on the land; but that again is not a criminal offence in the UK, thus leading to the possibility of a long legal fight in the courts.
'Bank of Ideas'
Occupy London issued a statement defending the action on the grounds that the building - which they described as a “multimillion pound complex” - has been empty for several years.
“While over 9,000 families were kicked out of their homes in the last three months for failing to keep up mortgage payments – mostly due to the recession caused by the banks – UBS and others financial giants are sitting on massive abandoned properties," Occupy London supporter Jack Holburn said in the statement.
“As banks repossess families’ homes, empty bank property needs to be repossessed by the public. Yesterday we learned that the government has failed to create public value out of banking failure. We can do better. We hope this is the first in a wave of ‘public repossessions’ of property belonging to the companies that crashed the global economy,” Holburn added.
Occupy London said they would reopen the building on Saturday morning as the “Bank of Ideas,” which will host a series of events thorough out the day.
Sarah Layler of Occupy London added: “The Bank of Ideas will host a full events program where people will be able to trade in creativity rather than cash. We will also make space available for those that have lost their nurseries, community centers and youth clubs to savage government spending cuts.”
Occupy London stressed the “Bank of Ideas” was a non-residential occupation – so visitors would be asked not to bring sleeping bags adding the space would be free from drugs and alcohol from the start, as per Occupy London’s safer space policy.