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SchNEWS reports from the front lines as police evict the Bank of Ideas and Occupy LSX in one night

Four and a half months after its conception, Occupy London was dealt two severe blows on Monday (27th) as the camp at St Paul's Cathedral and the School of Ideas were evicted in one busy night for the Met and City of London police. What happens next is anyones guess as OccupyLSX themselves have stated.This morning, the City of London Corporation and St Paul's Cathedral have dismantled a camp and displaced a small community, but they will not derail a movement..

While the eviction of St Paul's was not entirely unexpected, the apparent cooperation of the Cathedral with the authorities was one aspect that took activists and observers by surprise. Meanwhile, the School of Ideas was illegally evicted without any hint of due legal process - and incredibly was demolished by bulldozers in the early hours of the same morning. Around 20 people were arrested during the events.

SchNEWS was on the ground at the scene, where the first sign of imminent eviction was the scores of riot vans from both the Met and City of London police which started to gather at around midnight outside the Museum of London, just a few minutes from the protest site. People began to flock from all over London, and from the other two Occupy sites (School of Ideas, Finsbury Square), to join the resistance. However, within the space of half an hour police had cordoned off every road leading to the encampment, stopping people from entering the area. A lucky few managed to sneak in, and the rest gathered in crowds at all the access points, held back by the police lines.

Inside the cordon were about 150 occupiers and their supporters, some protecting their tents, others on a massive platform built from palettes where Tent University once stood, and more gathered on the steps of the cathedral. People had been told that the police had no right to evict from the steps as they were cathedral property, and the cathedral had promised to not give them permission. However, the church's later ambiguous statements said that the steps were being cleared for "cleaning".

The camp was given half an hour to remove their stuff and go. Although with around ten massive dumpster lorries were parked around the site to chuck people's belongings into, it was clear the police and their goons weren.t so into respecting property. Fifty or so security "guards" were there to remove all trace of the camp, and there were as many as a hundred riot cops hanging around in squadrons while vans, also full of cops, lined the surrounding streets. No time was wasted as the high court enforcement officers in hi-vis started to drag tents, bags, blankets, kitchen equipment and palettes into the waiting trucks. Lines of cops were formed around the site, the people on the steps, and the tents. Outnumbered so heavily by the authorities, people were left watching the process happen with little they could do but shout "Shame on you". Some managed to rescue blankets and sleeping bags for those who were going to be left on the streets that night.

Things went from bad to worse at about 1.30am, as the message came through that the School of Ideas was being evicted at the same time. As one activist told us, "No attempt whatsoever had been made by the authorities to follow the correct legal process, no IPOs had been granted, no court papers at all had been issued, so eviction was totally unexpected". A number of those at St Paul's left to try and stop the eviction, and also to try and save their belongings. With numbers of activists inside the cordon dwindling, the media had caught up and collected in the area to document the spectacle.

Soon all that remained was the platform in the middle of the site with twenty people on top, out of reach of the bailiffs. Riot cops formed rings around the platform, pushing the activists out, but bizarrely allowing the press and photographers to remain inside. The bailiffs started to pull apart the structure, managing to take out a few photographers with palettes as they went.

By 3am, the structure was down to a bare skeleton of planks of wood, and Þ fteen lads remained balanced on top. The hi-vis destructors went in for the kill. After much tussling, all were chucked off, with some bailiffs going arse over elbow as well as protesters. People regrouped on the steps of the cathedral. What followed was a bit like a playground game: The next hour was spent with police dragging people off the steps and dumping them on the other side of the road, only for them to run back and then be dragged off again. This lasted for a fair while but by 5am, the remaining protesters were left grouped on the other side of the road next to the pile of belongings they had managed to salvage. A fence now surrounds the old protest site, leaving access to the cathedral only. As for the people, the overflow from St Paul's and the School of Ideas has now flooded Finsbury Square, the last remaining static Occupy site. Some are speculating that the decision to evict both other sites on the same night was a calculated ploy by the City of London to cause an issue of overcrowding at Finsbury Square, which, up until now, the police have been able to do little about. Coming under the jurisdiction of Islington Borough Council, the camp has been allowed to stay, mainly because the council doesn't have the funds to evict. An agreement had been reached that the site would be turned into an ecovillage project, but now the council has made the ultimatum that if extra residents don't leave, the agreement will be withdrawn.

Squatters and activists from the Occupy movement have been tirelessly searching for empty buildings to take the homeless occupiers, but with the City of London police watching, filming, and recording everyone's movements, it's proving difficult. The question of what occupy will be with much less in the way of actual occupations will become clear over the coming weeks. In one of their typically flamboyant press releases, OLSX assures:

"Plans are already afoot: plans of some ambition, employing a diversity of tactics and delivered with the aplomb you would expect from us. All will be revealed in time. May is one of our favourite months..."

There are 3 comments on this story...
Added By: bill - 2nd March 2012 @ 9:11 PM
reading your newsletter made me wonder just what kind of society we are living in when hundreds of police attack protesters at the same time turning a blind eye and in some cases taking part in wars all over this globe best wishes bill
Added By: Anonymous - 2nd March 2012 @ 11:20 PM
The Occupy movement has only just begun.

The seeds have been sown, soon will be time to reap.
Added By: Sabrina - 2nd May 2012 @ 12:52 AM
Hmm, not really sure about this one at all. Whilst I agree that uenetterfd capitalism seems to be making an awful bollocks of things, the protest does run the risk of coming across as participated in by folks who aren't necessarily that much part of the oppressed masses. This may be unfair, but I am judging by the fact that one of their spokesmen has a profile on Linkedin describing him as a freelance PR. That and the fact that the really oppressed people in the UK aren't likely to be able to go and camp out side St Paul's for days on end as they tend to be doing stuff like being unpaid carers and/or minimum wage (or below minimum wage jobs), having to jump to the tune of the jobcentre or get their benefits stopped etc. What I'd really like to know (well one thing at least, there are hundreds) is when the world started being run by the likes of Standard and Poor. Can't we just tell them to take a running jump, instead of worrying about losing our triple A rating (do we still have it?) Particularly since their track record (Lehman Brothers) ain't that great.
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Twitter: @SchNEWS