LONDON — London authorities ordered anti-capitalist protesters camped at St Paul’s Cathedral to leave within 24 hours Wednesday in a new blow after the global movement’s US birthplace was torn down.
As bedraggled Occupy Wall Street activists trickled back through heavy security into a New York park a day after hundreds of police dismantled their camp in an overnight raid, London officials handed out eviction notices.
“We can confirm that this step has happened,” a spokesman for the City of London Corporation, the local authority for London’s financial district, told AFP as the notices were pinned to the demonstrators’ tents.
The notices said the dozens of colourful tents and marquees outside St Paul’s Cathedral, including a food area and a so-called university, were an “unlawful obstruction of the highway” and must be cleared by 1800 GMT Thursday.
The protesters, who have been camped outside St Paul’s since October 15 and at one point forced the closure of the cathedral, said they would stay and fight.
“We are not going to comply with their demand to move,” Spyro Van Leemnen, one of the spokesmen for the Occupy London Stock Exchange (LSX) group, told AFP. “We are going to take the case to high court. We have a great legal team who are on the case at the moment.
But Van Leemnen said they were not expecting a New York-style crackdown by police, adding the authorities had to obtain a court order to evict them from the downtown square, “which would take weeks.”
London is currently holding the torch for the so-called “Occupy Movement”, as across the Atlantic demonstrators vowed to fight on.
“Anything the cops have done will only invigorate us,” said Joe Diamond, 28, helping sustain the tech-savvy Occupy Wall Street movement’s live Internet broadcast from Zuccotti Park, a short walk from the city’s financial heart.
By lunchtime, about 200 people were peacefully assembled, playing protest songs and engaging in earnest debates about economic inequality in the United States and corruption on Wall Street.
But the square, which protesters had previously tried turning into a sort of anarchist utopia, now resembled a miniature police state.
Although Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the goal of the eviction was to return Zuccotti Park to the general public, the square was fenced off, with private guards manning the entrances and police officers patrolling outside.
Newly enforced rules barred sleeping bags, tents and other gear. A few protesters still slept there overnight.
“I did it out of solidarity,” Leina Bocar, 31, said after her night on a granite bench.
The protest movement is continuing in Washington, where Mayor Vincent Gray said the authorities were working hard with camp organizers to maintain “a delicate balance” between public order and the right to demonstrate.
There are also protest camps in several other European countries, albeit at a low level.
In Spain — home to the “indignados” movement that itself inspired the Wall Street protests — the last major rally was on November 13 when hundreds of people marched through the streets of Madrid.
They were fewer in number than in previous rallies by the movement, born when thousands of people set up camp for several weeks on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square in May.
They have not prevented the conservative Popular Party, which promises further austerity cuts, from taking a wide lead in polls ahead of Sunday’s Spanish general election.
In the German financial hub Frankfurt and the capital Berlin, camps are still in place.
“The protesters’ permit was renewed again last week and extended until November 27,” Frankfurt city authorities spokesman Ralph Rohr told AFP.
The Berlin camp however must hand over the land to its owner, a federal real estate agency, on November 30.
In Zurich, around 30 protesters took refuge outside a church a day after having been thrown out of a square in the centre of the Swiss city.
Meanwhile, a suspected gunman shot by police at the University of California, as hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters descended on the elite college, has died of his wounds, an official said.
The spokeswoman added there was still no indication that the shooting, the first such incident on the campus since the 1980s, was linked with the protesters.