Protesters at London's St Paul's given 24 hours to leave

16th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

London authorities ordered anti-capitalist protesters camped at St Paul's Cathedral to leave within 24 hours Wednesday in a new blow after the crushing of the global movement's US birthplace.

One day after police cleared the "Occupy Wall Street" camp in New York, London council officers pinned eviction notices to the tents of demonstrators pitched on a road outside the famed church.

"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.

The notices said the dozens of colourful tents and marquees outside St Paul's, including a food area and a so-called university, were an "unlawful obstruction of the highway" and must be cleared by 1800 GMT on Thursday.

The authority said in a statement it would take them to the High Court if they refused.

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.

"The City of London is hypocritical because they are exercising the power on peaceful protesters fighting for economic justice, while the same people responsible for the economic crisis are being awarded with massive bonuses."

But Van Leemnen said they were not expecting a New York-style crackdown by police, adding that 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 Atlatnic only a couple of dozen demonstrators resumed their protest Wednesday in New York's Zuccotti Park.

One demonstrator told AFP that three people were arrested overnight for lying down, in violation of newly-enforced rules that also prohibited camping gear in the park.

Demonstrator Dallas Carter, 32, said the protesters "have to go back to court to get the tents and sleeping bags again. But it's still a victory."

For two months, the park in Lower Manhattan had been home to a makeshift tent village that was the symbolic epicentre of a movement that has inspired similar protests worldwide.

But police early on Tuesday cleared the park and arrested about 200 of its occupants in a surprise pre-dawn operation, a move hailed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Later in the day, a judge ruled that while owners of the park and the authorities could not deny protesters their constitutional right to freedom of speech by banning entry to park, the protesters must abide by a ban on camping.

The protest movement is continuing 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.

© 2011 AFP

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