Occupy London protestors were given 24 hours to vacate their camp outside of St. Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday afternoon, one day after the midnight eviction of the Occupy Wall Street protestors in New York.
Eviction notices from the City of London Corporation were pinned to 200 tents, legally expelling them from all public highways. Any tents on land owned by the church will be allowed to stay up, which the rest of the protestors have until 6 p.m. local time to take down their shelters.
If any tents and other structures remain after 6pm on Thursday 17th November 2011, proceedings for possession and injunctions will be issued in the High Court of Justice without further notice, the eviction notice stated.
Any attempt to establish another protest camp consisting of tents and other structures elsewhere in the City of London Corporation's area will be likely to be the subject of immediate further proceedings without further notice.
The eviction is based on section 137 of the Highways Act 1980, which states, among other things, that it is the duty of the highway authority to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoyment of any highway, and that it is the duty of a council... to prevent, as far as possible, the stopping up or obstruction of any highway.
(Highway does not mean the same thing in England as it does in America. Basically, a highway is any public road or throughway.)
The protestors have been camped outside St. Paul's for a month and a day, and have vowed to stay, despite the eviction order. Like the Occupy Wall Street camp, lawyers working on behalf of the movement will likely petition city courts to reverse the decision.
[The eviction] is not something we need to be remotely worried about - we’ve been prepared for it for months, Occupy London spokesperson Naomi Colvin told The Daily Mail.
If they want to get an order in the High Court, it could take months. We will contest it. We will be speaking to our legal team and we will be fighting it.
While seemingly justifiable, the City of London Corporation's plan occupies a legal gray area. As pointed out by housing and public law solicitor Giles Peaker:
The offence is not 'restricting' the highway, or even 'obstructing' it, but doing so wilfully and without lawful authority and excuse. As Westminster council found in 2002, when trying to get an injunction to stop the late Brian Haw from having his placards and bed on the pavement in Parliament Square, it isn't necessarily enough that there is an obstruction or that it is deliberate. As set out by the judge in that hearing, the case law means that there is a public right of peaceful assembly on the highway, so long as it does not unreasonably impede people passing. The obstruction must be wilful, without lawful excuse and unreasonable.
And while the London protestors don't have a First Amendment to wave, they do have articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protect the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, both necessary in a democratic society.
Also like the Occupy Wall Street events on Tuesday, the city could plausibly allow the protests to go on indefinitely, but ban tents, tarps and other shelters.
If they take the camp down, we'll just put it up somewhere else, an Occupier named Luca told the BBC.
Some protestors took their complaints directly to London mayor Boris Johnson, marching to his office and holding a satirical Thank You party. They applauded Johnson for holding 86 meetings with the financial services industry and with bankers between May 2008 and March 2011 while only having 15 public meetings with Londoners, according to The Guardian.
Mayor Johnson has been vocally against the Occupy movement, comparing tent cities to boils and calling on city judges to have the cojones to evict protestors.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly named Gilas Peaker as a Guardian reporter.