Occupy London hit its first real stumbling block earlier this week when Mayor Joe Fontana requested the protesters vacate Victoria Park.
Fontana cited a bylaw which makes it illegal to build structures, such as the tents the occupiers have been using, in the park, which has been the movement’s base of operations since the protests began on the October 22. It seems unlikely, though, that the protesters are going to leave willingly.
“We’re already established here. And more than that, it’s a matter of continuity with the other Occupy movements around the world. Most of the occupations are on public property and have fought to remain so, and we want to remain connected with what’s going on elsewhere. We’re determined to stay,” Anthony Verberckmoes, media representative for Occupy London, said.
Another site has been made available to Occupy London if staying in Victoria Park does, in the end, becomes untenable. Kevin Dixon, dean of the dioces at St. Paul’s Cathedral, has offered the north end of the cathedral’s grounds as an alternate location for the protests. Dixon was careful to note giving the group the green light was not an act of solidarity with the movement.
“It’s very difficult to be in solidarity with a protest movement which has such diffuse aims. I have my perspective on what the protest is about, but the aim of the protest is not crystallized, so it’s hard to be in solidarity with that,” Dixon said. “What I’m saying is I’m not opposed to people protesting peacefully in a democracy. I think that peaceful protest is an important and necessary component of any democratic society.”
While Verberckmoes stressed Occupy London as a whole was certainly appreciative of the offer, he pointed out a number of concerns brought up about relocating to St. Paul’s.
“Some people had trouble with the idea of being associated with a religious institution and others felt it left us vulnerable to go stay anywhere that was privately owned,” he said.
If a decision is made to firmly enforce the bylaw, it remains unclear how the city will attempt to deal with protesters who remove to vacate. Even London’s police seem to be unsure of exactly how they will react when and if the time comes.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely and we’re going to evaluate it on a continual basis,” Dennis Rivest, media relations officer for London Police Services, said. “We will make decisions at the moment that they need to be made.”