Occupy is appealing against an order to evict them from St Paul's

By staff writers
18 Jan 2012

The City of London Corporation has won its High Court bid for an eviction order against the Occupy anti-corporate greed protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral.

But the Occupy the London Stock Exchange group has launched an immediate appeal, with a stay of eviction until it is granted or rejected.

John Cooper QC, acting for the defendants announced that he is is starting the procedure straight away, and that the basis for appeal will be that the City of London Corporation only objected to the semi-permanent nature of camp, not the protest itself.

He added that further analysis would be necessary in an ongoing and developing situation. OLSX will cite democratic necessity and pressing social need in addition to specific points in the Human Rights Act.

High Court Judge Keith Lindblom said that he did not believe an appeal would have a reasonable chance of success, and he rejected all appeals "to this court". Therefore the Court of Appeal will be next step for the protesters and their legal team.

Before proceedings were wound up, it was announced that COLC will not enforce the eviction order until 4pm on 27 January, during which time OLSX will need to seek permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal.

The Corporation has sought an additional possession order to prevent the camp from shifting to a nearby area.

The demonstrators have been on the site since 15 October 2011, as part of a global movement. They have a 'tent university', commissions on economic change and a welfare and health system in place.

The judge had visited the camp on 19 December 2011, and in his judgement showed some sympathy for the protesters, but said baldly that he realised "this verdict will be of disappointment to the defendants and many others but it is not for court to decide on morality."

"The law doesn't care about the politics of the protest, it cares only about property law. Therein lies the problem," OLSX responded after his statement.

Following the five-day hearing last month, Mr Justice Lindblom had granted orders for possession and injunctions against the protesters, and the verdict this afternoon was not unexpected. The details are being determined at the moment.

"By evicting us they only serve to enhance our PR campaign", one supporter tweeted immediately after the initial verdict was declared.

Lawyers for the protesters had argued that the courts must guard freedom of expression and assembly, which is enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights.

But the judge said he believed that the camp was causing significant obstruction and local nuisance and could see no "pressing need" outweighing this.

He said that the City of London was legally entitled city to remove tents in "designated areas one and two" (the court had been provided with a schematized plan of the area).

He added that he did not doubt the commitment and good intention of those gathered outside St Paul's.

While the Cathedral changed its official stance to Occupy from one of hostility to cooperation, varying from willing to reluctant in different quarters, it has effectively quietly gone along with the actions of the City of London Corporation in pursuing eviction, and is likely to be accused of allowing others to 'do its dirty work'.

Symon Hill, associate director of the beliefs and values think-tank Ekklesia, which has been supportive towards the Occupy movement, commented: “Despite the good work that is no doubt done by St Paul's Cathedral, many Christians will be disappointed that some seem more concerned with the inconvenience of a campsite than with the much greater damage done by the City of London and global financial systems.”

Christians and people of faith have pledged to resist the eviction with a 'ring of prayer'. Labour MP Helen Goodman and Church of England priest Chris Howson are among those who have declared their intention to join the ring.

* More from Ekklesia on Occupy: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/occupy

More to follow. Grateful acknowledgements to James Albury.

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