Police evicted the last Occupy London campaigners from Finsbury Square near the city’s financial district, eight months after the income inequality demonstrations began in the U.K. capital.
As many as 100 officers were involved in the operation, which followed a court ruling that the area must be returned to community use. There were no arrests and no violent incidents during the operation that began at about 1 a.m., said a spokesman for London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
“Today’s enforcement action was peaceful and low-key,” said Paul Convery, the executive member for community safety with the council for the borough of Islington where the camp is located. “A number of homeless people have been living in the square. We have been speaking to them and offering advice and support.”
The Occupy Movement, which has spread to cities around the world, began in New York in September when protesters took up residence in a park to highlight Americans who suffered as banks recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis. The non-confrontational end to the London occupation contrasts with cities like New York and Oakland, California, where police in riot gear confronted demonstrators.
Occupy London moved to Finsbury Square in north London last October, extending protests that began outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.
The occupation will cost Islington about 100,000 pounds ($155,000), including the legal action and restoring the square, according to a statement from the borough. The last occupier had left the square by about 3 a.m.
Hours after the removal, about 18 tents had been set up in Shoreditch Park and three Metropolitan Police vans had been dispatched to monitor the situation. The park is located in the borough of Hackney adjacent to Islington.
A judge yesterday refused to give the protesters permission to appeal a June 1 ruling that they must leave the site, Ranjit Bhose, a lawyer for the borough of Islington where the camp is located, said in an e-mail late yesterday.
Remnants of discarded tents, broken wooden pallets, traffic cones, chairs, sheets of tarpaulin and other debris littered the area between Old Street and Moorgate subway stations. Bloomberg LP’s European headquarters are located on the square. Work to clean and repair the public park has begun and the space, now fenced off, will be reopened soon, the council said.
“I sort of feel sympathy for them,” said Rob Williams, who walks past the camp on his way to and from work. “I liked it when it was green and you could sit on it. It looks like Glastonbury now,” he said, referring to the famously muddy music festival in Somerset, England.
The protestors said at a hearing earlier this month that of the 99 people still at the Finsbury Square site, 88 were homeless.
Occupy London protesters have cost the City of London and its police about 1 million pounds in legal and monitoring expenses, according to information obtained in a Freedom of Information request by Bloomberg News.
The Islington authority served the protesters on May 11 with a legal notice of eviction from the site giving them until May 18 to clear the square of tents and other temporary structures. The process was halted during court challenges.