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Occupy vows to continue protest

Protesters who spent the night near Parliament Square remained outside the Supreme Court today, insisting that they planned to stay until tomorrow evening.

Around 30 protesters from the Occupy London group slept on land outside the Supreme Court building, which overlooks Parliament Square, after the square itself was fenced off. Around 45 demonstrators were still in the area this afternoon, displaying banners and placards.

Canning Green, a grassy area near the court, has also been closed off by police.

The demonstration remained peaceful this afternoon, and the Metropolitan Police said there had been only one arrest.

There were bizarre scenes early this evening as police and Westminster council officials forcibly removed a sofa from the protesters.

The police and council, which owns the area in front of the Supreme Court, had negotiated a 5pm deadline with protesters for the removal of the sofa, which had been brought to the site earlier this afternoon.

People were carried away from the area by police and placed on the floor, but apart from some jostling there was no violence.

Protesters chanted "Shame on you" and "Who do you serve, who do you protect?" as a large group of police carried the sofa to a van owned by the council.

Protesters held on to a rug and tarpaulins, which they moved into the doorway of the Supreme Court. A police liaison officer said that they had recommended that authorities leave the rug to "minimise animosity" but that Westminster council wanted it to be removed at some point during the evening.

Protesters say they are demonstrating against the bedroom tax and the privatisation of the NHS.

One protester, Raymond Obedencio, who spent last night on the square, said: "We didn't vote for the privatisation of the NHS. We didn't vote for TTIP (Transatlantic trade investment partnership). We didn't vote for fracking.

"But all these things are happening. We all came together and we decided that there's a democratic deficit. People don't know these things so we have to keep educating them.

"Unfortunately the narrative is becoming more about the right to protest."

The group was planning to hold debates and talks today. However, another protester, who did not want to give his full name, said that the low turnout was "disappointing".

There was a heavy police presence around the entire square.

One person was arrested yesterday for criminal damage to the fence, and has now been released.

Superintendent Andy Walker of the Metropolitan Police said: "Our role here is very simply to facilitate peaceful protest. There will be a policing presence for as long as the protest takes place."

In response to concerns from protesters about tarpaulins and cardboard being removed, he said: "The Police Social Responsibility Act prohibits the use of anything for sleeping."

At around 1pm a sofa and a carpet were carried into the area, prompting chants of "Whose sofa? Our sofa" and "Whose square? Our square."

The area is owned by Westminster council, and staff were on site talking to protesters.

Organisers from the Occupy movement called for supporters to gather outside the Palace of Westminster last night for the start of a three-day demonstration. But they were met by dozens of police officers and fencing guarding Parliament Square after Scotland Yard warned activists they were banned from camping at the landmark.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said last night that organisers from the movement had "failed to engage" with the force and that it had "an appropriate and proportionate police plan in place" for the event.

A Section 60 AA order was enforced in the area around Parliament Square which gave police powers to force people to remove masks where they anticipated criminal activity. But that order was due to expire at 2pm today.

Last month there were a series of clashes with police on Parliament Square as supporters of the Occupy movement stood their ground for nine days. Green Party politician Jenny Jones was among a group of arrested protesters.

Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, officers can forcibly remove any protesters who decide to set up camp in Parliament Square. The legislation was introduced after anti-war campaigners spent years occupying the London landmark outside Parliament.


From Belfast Telegraph