Occupy London protesters lose eviction appeal bid
LONDON — Anti-capitalist protesters on Wednesday lost their bid to challenge orders to evict them from outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London, leaving authorities free to clear the site.
England’s Court of Appeal dismissed the demonstrators’ application for permission to challenge last month’s High Court ruling that they must disband the camp, which has been on the pavement outside the landmark since October 15.
“We accept that there is a right to assemble and protest on the highway, but it is by no means an unfettered right,” said judge David Neuberger.
The Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters, who took their inspiration from New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement, said they were determined to continue the protest in some form.
“All appeals denied but fight not over,” the group tweeted.
In a statement posted on the Occupy London website, the group’s lawyer John Cooper said they would “now be urgently considering their next legal steps”.
The activists “will, we anticipate, be bringing their case to the European Court of Human Rights to give that Court the opportunity to consider the state of public protest law in Britain,” said Cooper.
But lodging a case at the ECHR would not stop the eviction — and the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the capital’s financial district, said it would start removing the tents, though it did not say when.
“Everyone has had their day in court and the courts have backed our application to remove tents and equipment from St Paul’s,” said the corporation’s policy chairman Stuart Fraser.
“Peaceful protest is a democratic right but the camp is clearly in breach of highway and planning law.
“I would call on protesters to comply with the decision of the courts and remove their tents and equipment voluntarily right away.”
The local authority, which started legal action in October, had argued that the camp attracted crime and disorder, dented trade in the area, caused hygiene problems and inconvenienced worshippers trying to access the cathedral.
The camp, which at its height contained around 200 tents, briefly forced St Paul’s to close in October for the first time since World War II after officials said the camp was blocking access for visitors.
The head of St Paul’s, Giles Fraser, resigned in October rather than see protesters forcibly removed.