Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) — Occupy London protesters who took over a vacant UBS AG office building in the city’s financial district won court permission to appeal their eviction after a judge ruled they weren’t given proper notice of a trial.
The bank’s notice to the protesters, in the form of a document posted on the building and a text message sent to a leader 45 minutes before a 10 p.m. hearing, was insufficient to give the group time to prepare or determine how to participate in the case, Court of Appeal Judge Timothy Lloyd ruled today.
There was “really no effective notice of the hearing at all — especially in circumstances like this, where a hearing took place late at night,” Lloyd said. “There is at least a compelling reason why permission to appeal should be granted.”
The court victory against Zurich-based UBS comes as the protesters, who seek global economic-equality and claim the bank behaves unethically, are in a separate trial to avoid being evicted from their primary encampment outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. More than 200 tents have clustered around the building since the middle of October, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest that has since been broken up by police.
“This ruling is a vindication of the right of everyone in this country to due process,” Naomi Colvin, a spokeswoman for Occupy London, said after the ruling. “These people labor under the misconception that they can throw money at a problem; it’s emblematic of what the Occupy movement is trying to combat.”
UBS’s press office in London didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lloyd said an appeal hearing should take place as soon as possible after Jan. 11. He suspended an injunction won by UBS last month and put on hold a so-called possession order that paved the way for eviction. The bank, whose building was occupied Nov. 18, said it would propose an interim injunction to address its concerns about health and safety in the building.
In the St. Paul’s trial, protesters are fighting a court push by the City of London Corporation, which oversees Britain’s main financial district, to evict them from the property over claims they are blocking a public passageway, impeding tourists from photographing the 17th century cathedral and forcing the continued closure of nearby Paternoster Square, where the London Stock Exchange is located.
The protesters claim the occupation is a human right and an effective way to raise awareness of wrongdoing by banks. Judge Keith Lindblom said today he may give an indication of his decision by the end of the week and that he would visit the protest site at the cathedral today.
“Freedom of expression is one of the essential foundations of a democratic society,” the group’s lawyer, Michael Paget, said in his opening statement at the trial. The occupation is drawing attention to “the mismanagement of the U.K. and global economy and the structural flaws in the economy, including the inability to properly regulate the banking system.”
The four-day trial comes after the City’s negotiations with the protest movement last month failed to result in a deal for the protesters to leave the area after the New Year. Demonstrators have also occupied Finsbury Square and a nearby UBS AG building to protest inequality.
The City served an eviction notice on the St. Paul’s protesters on Nov. 16, a day after New York police in riot gear entered Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan to remove Occupy Wall Street protesters who had been camping there for more than eight weeks in a demonstration that triggered others around the world.
- Protesters’ ‘Bank of Ideas’ to stay open over Christmas (independent.co.uk)
- Protesters call end to occupation of St Paul’s (independent.co.uk)
- Occupy London prepares for legal action as life continues in Tent City (guardian.co.uk)
- Occupy London protesters fight eviction in court (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Occupy London Protesters Fight Eviction in Court (abcnews.go.com)
- Occupy London: Protesters To Fight Eviction In High Court (huffingtonpost.com)