Police and bailiffs cleared Occupy London’s camp at St Paul’s cathedral in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Hundreds of occupiers and their supporters turned out to oppose the destruction of the camp. It has been an unofficial landmark in the capital since it began on 15 October last year.
The occupiers were given just five minutes’ notice to clear their tents and belongings before the forced eviction.
The City of London and its police force had refused to tell the protesters when the eviction would take place.
But occupiers knew that the City had informed local businesses of a “deep clean” on Wednesday—implying that the camp would be removed by then.
Around ten City of London police vans arrived at the site just after midnight. Some protesters picked up their things and left, but many more decided to resist.
A large barricade was hastily built in the middle of the churchyard from wooden palettes the tents had been pitched on.
Music blared from a sound system and flares were set off, bathing the crowd in red smoke.
But riot police eventually forced activists out of the yard and tore down the structure.
Giles Fraser, the former canon of St Paul’s cathedral who resigned in protest at the church’s opposition to Occupy, was stopped by police from entering the churchyard.
Many protesters assembled on the cathedral steps, an area not under the City of London’s jurisdiction.
Yet police forcibly removed these activists, insisting that the cathedral had given them permission to do so.
This angered many of the Christians who had gathered on the steps in solidarity with the camp. Police dragged and pushed them too.
Michael, a health worker who had spent time providing first aid at the camp, described the policing as “heavy handed”.
“This is disappointing but expected,” he said, adding that the government was desperate to clamp down on protests because they exposed its weakness.
“This is the longest occupation so far,” Michael said. “Now after four months the movement can re-form. It’s healthy.”
Despite the clearance, Occupy London activists remained positive.
“This is only the beginning!” people shouted as they assembled on the road in front of St Paul’s.
Ragnhild Freng Dale, a student, described the number of police as “ridiculous”. “It was relatively peaceful, but you could feel the threat of violence from the police,” she said.
“But this movement is much bigger than the tents. We can walk away with our heads held high.”
John Sinha, who has camped at the site since the start, said now it was time to build the movement outwards.
“This is far from the end of the Occupy movement,” he said. “This is not over.”
For more photos of the eviction go to http://bit.ly/zGGJSE