The movement to evict Occupy London gains pace

Alex Hern covers the latest developments on Occupy London, including the tenuous claims of Paul Staines.

Over the weekend, the Bishop of London spoke to Occupy London, answering questions on a number of topics, and speaking passionately about his desire to avoid violence, but notably avoiding any commitment to oppose an eviction of the camp.

The Guardian reported:

Speaking minutes after addressing Occupy London protesters on the cathedral steps for the first time, Dr Richard Chartres said he believed that “getting the legal situation clear is probably a sensible precautionary measure”.

He added: “I don’t myself subscribe to the idea that it’s instantly going to lead to violent confrontations…

“A prudent organisation has to be prepared and we just don’t know what’s going to happen. Nobody knows. The camp could be taken over by people who are very different from the ones who are in charge at the moment. I think it is a prudent measure.”


Chartres told the group: “Nobody wants violence… we all want to avoid that.” But the first protester to take the microphone told him: “Violence will be visited upon those people in a brutal way [if an eviction takes place].”

Johnny Remlap, a student at the camp, said: “For all the sophistry and rhetoric about avoiding violence, how can they reconcile that with being OK with evictions?

“They’ve given their tacit approval to it. They’re giving de facto licence to violence because there will be violence. I’m not violent. But I’ll get hit by a baton.”

The movement through the courts to evict the protesters is gaining momentum; David Rose of The Times is tweeting:

Protesters at St Paul’s Cathedral to be served legal notice today giving them 24 or 48 hrs toremove tents or face court action.

More and more politicians have recognised that they can’t keep silent on the matter forever.

Ken Livingstone has spoken out in favour of the protests, saying:

“It is completely unsurprising that some people are going to protest: in modern Britain directors’ pay is soaring but ordinary people are losing their jobs, seeing their services cut, and being hit with higher fees, fares and VAT. The top one per cent is doing well, the rest are being squeezed.

“One in ten Londoners are out of work, fares are going through the roof, hospitals and NHS services are under threat. Last week’s figures on top directors’ pay add to the powerful feeling of unfairness.

“The Mayor of London’s office has wildly misjudged this issue, making the Occupy movement the enemy but failing to act on public concerns about jobs and growth. Conservative London actually stands for more unfairness, demanding a lower top rate of tax for the richest. That’s not surprising in a city where the mayor meets bankers more than the police.”

Opposing the Occupation on the Politics Show on BBC1 on Sunday, Nick Herbert, the policing and justice minister, used an argument decried on this site just yesterday, saying that it was necessary to deal with invasions of private property:

“Everybody agrees there should be a right of peaceful protest in our country. People have an entitlement to make their view known. It’s fundamental to our democracy and the coalition is committed to protect that.

“But we saw – for instance in Parliament square – where there was a permanent encampment which had gone on for years there and was very disruptive to the enjoyment of Parliament Square by others. You cannot protest peacefully at parliament square because its closed off to others. We are taking action to deal with that.

“And if necessary we will take action to deal with other invasions of private property that involved permanent encampments.”

We detailed the problem with this line of reasoning on Sunday:

A private company on private land can deny any person access at any time for almost any reason. That is fine if that private land is, for example, a shop or an office block. But when it is a street, square or park, and when it is indistinguishable from the private land around it, it creates problems.

With the trend of allowing property companies to purchase the streets and squares they build around, as well as the land they build on, banning protest on private land is becoming equivalent to banning protest altogether.

Those seeking to discredit the movement are grasping at more and more tenuous straws in their efforts. Paul Staines is accusing a movement which had a several-hundred strong Yom Kippur service, and which exists in Tel Aviv, of anti-semitism, while claiming that their calls for democratisation of the Corporation of London are those of the “loony left”.

In case you didn’t know, the Corporation of London is a public body which allows corporations votes based on their number of employees, a situation likened by Maurice Glasman to the voting rights of chattel owners in the pre-war American South. It is also the body that gets to decide if the protestors are allowed to stay, or violently evicted.

Finally, Jeremy Hardy presented on the News Quiz on Friday what will surely become the absolute last word on the idiotic claims of Louise Mensch. It is a minute long, and you can listen below:

Jeremy Hardy on the News Quiz (mp3)

See also:

The privatisation of public space is harming our ability to protestAlex Hern, October 30th 2011

Occupy London needs to catalyse a new LeftBen Mitchell, October 27th 2011

The Mail’s rent-a-rev called for gays to be tattooed with health warningsAlex Hern, October 27th 2011

Top five reasons why you can’t protest (according to the right)Alex Hern, October 26th 2011

The “occupy” protests come to the City this SaturdayShamik Das, October 12th 2011

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