Occupy London publicly repossesses empty office block

By staff writers
21 Jan 2012

Occupy London, itself battling eviction from outside St Paul's Cathedral, has repossessed Roman House, an abandoned financial services office building. The office is located in the Barbican, in the City of London.

OLSX says that it action is also intended to force the hand of the City of London Corporation in opening its books and achieving financial transparency.

Berkeley Homes, which owns the empty Roman House, has asked protesters to leave, claiming that the building is "not safe for public use" and is being cleared of asbestos.

But Occupy supporter Bryn Phillips responded: "There was a log book inside the building and it was completely blank for asbestos. We're only going to be occupying one floor at a time and that would be health and safety checked first."

The firm also says that the property is being converted into 90 residential flats and that the occupation is putting building jobs at risk.

Mr Philipps replied that the group would leave if there was a building contract in place, because to remain and put jobs and homes at risk would be "so against what we are about".

Occupy campaigners, part of the global movement for social and economic justice and democracy, say they intend to remain in the building – their fifth occupation – until such time as the Corporation publishes full details of its City Cash Accounts.

This is something Occupy London has consistently asked of the Corporation, which is using the court system to try to have ant-greed and corruption protesters evicted from their current site, and forbidden to take another.

"Having the corporate malpractice they accede to and defend highlighted every day is an embarrassment to the COLC and their mates in the financial sector," one Occupy supporter told Ekklesia today.

A press conference was held today at Roman House, which is on the corner of Wood Street and Fore Street, London EC2.

The building will be opened to the public at 11am on Monday 23 January 2012 for a lecture focusing on the City’s secret finances and its lobbying activities.

Roman House is a non-residential building for Occupy London. The City of London Police have visited the building and have agreed that it is a civil matter, representatives explained to the media.

Stuart Fraser, outgoing policy chief of the City of London Corporation, revealed on 17 November 2011, on an edition of 'The Report' on BBC Radio regarding the Occupy London Stock Exchange occupation by St Paul’s, that “now, under transparency, we’ve got to think about it [releasing details of the City Cash] very seriously. Let me put it this way, it is under discussion.”

Occupy London supporter Bryn Philips commented: “We are still waiting on this. The Corporation has undermined our democracy through the power of its lobbyists and must submit to public scrutiny. If the City agrees to publish its City Cash Accounts, future and historic, we will leave the building immediately. If does not, we will take appropriate action until such time as it does.”

Calls for greater transparency from the Corporation have grown since OccupyLSX by St Paul’s began its occupation on 15 October, with support given by groups such as Reclaim the City who campaign for the democratisation of the City.

Most recently, there was a significant step towards transparency – thought not through the choice of the Corporation – when the Rev William Taylor, former Common Councillor for the City of London Corporation from 2001 to 2003 and again from 2005 to 2008, who had access to the City’s private ‘City’s Cash’ accounts published some of the accounts via his blog ‘Hackney preacher’.

Fr Taylor has also published a new blog focusing on one of the noteworthy funds wrapped up in the City’s Cash account – the Gresham Estate.

Roman House becomes Occupy London’s newest occupation, while its first occupation – OccupyLSX by St Paul’s Cathedral – will this Monday celebrate its 100th day.

Other occupations include Finsbury Square which is currently in the process of transforming into an eco-village, the Bank of Ideas which was previously the abandoned multimillion pound offices of Swiss investment bank UBS, and Occupy Justice, the former Old Street Magistrate’s Court where Occupy London has been putting the 'one per cent' who run the world on trial.

* More on OLSX: http://occupylsx.org/

* Rev William Taylor's blog: 'Hackney Preacher - Sin and the City of London' - http://hackneypreacher.com/2012/01/epiphany/

[Ekk/3]

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