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parliament square reoccupied this evening

rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki) | 09.10.2010 23:26 | London

after this afternoon's 'democracy rally' (indy article to come), a group of about forty people decided to reoccupy parliament square. fences were dismantled and the security guards' tent was occupied and officially squatted. there were two arrests for alleged criminal damage, but the space was helf for nearly six hours before guards man-handled protestors out after the police had left.

at around 6pm this evening, activists raised the fences at parliament square and around 40 people peacefully entered the cordoned off square. boris's eight or so paid 24-hour security guards were unable to stop the re-occupation, and filmed the protestors while calling for police back-up.

at about half past six, spotting that the security guards' own large marquee tent (aptly bearing the logo 'freedomtrail'), was currently empty, a large group of activists ran to it and occupied the 'unoccupied existing dwelling', putting up a sign that they had seized and lawfully occupied it under section 6 of the criminal law act.

after some negotiation with inspector julien morriss, the occupiers allowed the security guards to enter and remove their belongings to a nearby park bench. the police clearly didn't want to get involved other than to prevent a breach of the peace, and after some legal discussion, suggested to the security guards that while activists sat on the ballast bags acting as tent pegs, any attempt to dismantle the tent (the guards' next plan) might lead to such a breach and was ill-advised.

so, it looked like a court order would be necessary to evict the new residents in the parliament square tent.

meanwhile, some pixies armed with appropriate spanners, started work on the fencing, and soon the south-east corner of the square was open to passers-by and the public once more.

guards pointed out two of the pixies to police, claiming that there was criminal damage, so officers stepped forward to attempt arrest. at that point a group huddle started, and although one pixie was handcuffed, both remained inside this new illegal cuddle.

there were not enough police to thwart the loving bundle, and so there was a good-humoured but resolute impasse, as both sides failed to give ground over more than an hour. police clearly didn't have the man-power to complete the arrests, and the protestors weren't prepared to give up their comrades over such a flimsy arrest. while security guards showed slightly bent clamps to the police as evidence of the 'criminal damage', it was clear that even the police were questioning the strange stand-off they'd got themselves into.

however, eventually a dozen burly cops turned up, one of them reading out a warning (not terribly eloquently - he seemed a little over-excited), and then they waded in and snatched the two arrestees, who finally stopped holding hands with their arresting officers. some people in the cuddle were briefly arrested for obstruction and then dearrested.

most of the police then disappeared off into the night again, possibly having something just slightly more useful to do.

activists got in more equipment, food, and provisions to settle for the night.

but then the police made a complete tactical withdrawal, no longer sticking around to 'prevent a breach of the peace', and the security guards began dismantling their own tent.

with activists sitting in the corners of the tent, and on the ballast bags outside, the only solution for the guards was to break some of the tent poles and damage the tent.

as the tent is probably not the property of the guards themselves, there is a strong case for criminal damage charges against them rather than any activists who might have slightly bent a clamp, but somehow i don't suppose this will come to court!

security guards then man-handled people out one by one, and the square was finally reclaimed by boris's army after five and a half hours at 11.30.

activists have of course vowed to be back - watch this space.

rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki)
- Original article on IMC London: