Police dismantled the anti-capitalist camp outside London’s St Paul’s Cathedral early yesterday, arresting 20 people as they brought a swift end to the last major Occupy protest around the world.
Officers and bailiffs moved in shortly after midnight on Monday, prompting activists to hastily erect barriers out of wooden palettes and let off smoke bombs in an attempt to stall the clearance operation.
About 50 or 60 protesters were present, down from about 200 who settled outside the cathedral at the start of the protest in October, watching on as a lone piper heralded the camp’s demise.
A handful of people were reported to have handcuffed themselves to a makeshift wooden structure on the edge of the camp, but the rest of the site was reduced to a pile of old mattresses and tents within two hours.
“Bailiffs employed by City of London Corporation have removed tents and equipment from St Paul’s Churchyard, in line with a High Court order. The operation was largely peaceful,” the City of London police said in a statement.
“A small minority of protestors obstructed the work of bailiffs. Police made 20 arrests as of 4:30am,” the statement said.
The Occupy the London Stock Exchange protest began outside the cathedral, in the heart of the capital’s financial district, on Oct. 15 in support of a similar action on New York’s Wall Street.
However, there has been an air of resignation within the camp since the Court of Appeal on Wednesday last week dismissed the protesters’ application for permission to challenge last month’s High Court ruling that they must disband.
The London clearance followed the forcible eviction of protesters from Zuccotti Park in New York two months ago, and a dawn raid against a camp at McPherson Square in Washington early this month.
London activist George Barda said he had “mixed emotions” as the eviction proceeded.
“It’s an opportunity to move sideways,” he told the BBC. “It’s not the beginning of the end, just the end of the beginning and the drama of this event cannot be allowed to eclipse the issues.”
Footage streamed live on the Occupy LSX Web site appeared to show a minor scuffle between a protester and bailiffs, but the atmosphere was largely good-natured.
Another activist claimed on Occupy’s Twitter page that police were threatening to arrest protesters if they did not leave the church’s steps, although the eviction order did not extend to the removal of people.
The City of London Corp pledged to find appropriate accommodation for any vulnerable people camped at the site.
The corporation started legal action against the protest camp in November, arguing it had attracted crime, dented local trade and inconvenienced worshipers.