Shortly after midnight on Tuesday, British authorities swiftly moved in on the Occupy London site at St. Paul’s Cathedral, clearing the cobbled churchyard of about 100 tents and closing down the main hub for the London Occupy movement.
“It was horrible,” said Chris Wallace, 35, a chef, who said he was packing up a tent when he was forcibly whacked on the back of his head with a baton. He blacked out for a few minutes, he said. “It was absolutely crazy. What is this world coming to?”
St. Paul’s officials denied charges Tuesday that they colluded in the eviction, saying in a statement, “The police did not ask for permission from us regarding any aspect of the action taken last night.”
A video posted to YouTube, however, seemed to show police telling protesters the church gave them permission to clear the encampment:
A Scotland Yard spokesman said about 20 people were arrested and that dismantling the camp “passed off without major incident.”
The Occupy London camp was set up on Oct. 15 last year when, inspired by Occupy Wall Street, protesters in hundreds of cities around the world joined the Occupy movement.
Protesters here pitched tents at St. Paul's Cathedral after they were blocked by police from setting up a camp at the nearby London Stock Exchange.
The camp triggered convulsions within the Church of England about their role in the movement and within days of the camp’s arrival, two senior figures at St. Paul’s Cathedral resigned.
Occupy London’s eviction appeal was dismissed last week, meaning the City of London Corporation, which, jointly owns the land along with the church, was free to oust the protesters.
Anticipating the eviction, many of the protesters had already moved to the movement’s other two London sites: the “School of Ideas” in the Islington neighborhood and Finsbury Square. Protesters at the school were also evicted on Tuesday, while the square was bustling with new arrivals.
Caine Ijiz, 50, was one of the few protesters still at St. Paul’s on Tuesday morning. “It’s terrible, isn’t it?” he said as he strummed his guitar over the noise of workmen hosing down the churchyard. “The people who should be going are around the corner,” said Ijiz, referring to the many bankers who work nearby.
Many of the protesters evicted from St. Paul's Cathedral relocated to Finsbury Square, a camp set up several months ago in heart of London's financial district. When asked how long he planned on staying, Wallace, the chef, said: "How long is a piece of string?"