Police and bailiffs have begun to dismantle the Occupy London campsite outside St. Paul's Cathedral. The action came after a court rejected an appeal by protesters to be allowed to stay.
Bailiffs and police on Tuesday cleared the campsite set up by Occupy London campaigners after the protesters lost a legal battle to remain at the site.
Police said they arrested 20 people in the "largely peaceful" operation to clear the Occupy London campsite. The local authority, the City of London Corporation, confirmed the eviction from the four-month-old encampment in front of St. Paul's Cathedral had begun.
"Today the City of London Corporation has begun to enforce the High Court orders for the removal of the tents and equipment outside St. Paul's," the corporation said in a statement, appealing to the demonstrators to move on peacefully. "We regret that it has come to this."
Bailiffs in fluorescent jackets removed tents and contents from the Occupy London Stock Exchange (Occupy LSX) site, one of the longest-surviving camps to spring up following New York's Occupy Wall Street protests against corporate greed.
Barricades and smoke bombs
Protesters erected barricades out of wooden palettes and released smoke bombs in an effort to delay the clear-up, which began shortly after midnight.
Occupy LSX appealed via Twitter for a global show of support for the protests. "We call for international peaceful solidarity actions against UK embassies around the world," the group said.
Civic authorities have an order allowing them to remove tents, but not the protesters themselves, although activists claimed they had been actively forced to leave the camp against their will. Last Wednesday, the Court of Appeal in London turned down an appeal from the protesters asking that an earlier ruling against their encampment be overturned.
The City of London began legal action against the camp in November, arguing it had attracted crime, harmed local trade and caused inconvenience for worshippers at St. Paul's. Controversy about the camp caused deep rifts within the cathedral authorities, leading to the resignation of two top clerics.
rc,slk/ msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)