Demonstrators camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in the City of London as part of the Occupy London protest can legally be evicted, the High Court ruled today.
The Occupy London protest began in late October in response to a similar demonstration held outside the New York Stock Exchange.
Activists have camped outside the central London cathedral for nearly three months in protest against the state of the economy and the way the financial crisis is being handled by the present government.
The demonstration split the church hierarchy, claiming the resignation of a number of key church officials who decided to leave office rather than see the church back a forced eviction.
The case against the demonstrators was brought by the City of London Corporation which is the administrative body for the area of London also known as the Square Mile. In argument, the Corporation said that the cathedral had been desecrated by the protest, with graffiti scratched and painted onto the stone work and human faeces found in the grounds.
Lawyers for the Corporation also cited a number of incidents involving alcohol and substance misuse which created noise and disturbance for other local businesses, residents and tourists.
Protestors reacted with disappointment at the ruling, and indicated that they will take their case to the Court of Appeal by next Friday.
"The basis of our appeal will be that the order was not the least intrusive way to address the pressing social need to evict the demonstrators," said barrister Michael Paget, who is representing the protesters.
"The judge could have made an order just requiring the tents to be removed every night and not during the day," he added.
Some protestors have indicated that they will resist any attempt to remove them, although many have said that the decision to resist or leave peacefully will be one for each individual's conscience.
The protest has attracted support from many quarters in recent months, including the civil rights leader the Rev Jesse Jackson, fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood and Radiohead crooner Thom Yorke.
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