Council considers whether to evict camp protesters from centre of Brighton

Posted On 31 Oct 2011 at 10:11 pm

Protesters have occupied Victoria Gardens in the centre of Brighton.

The Occupy Brighton protest emulates a growing number of similar protests around the world, including the tent city outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London and Occupy Wall Street in New York.

The group, which began its occupation of Victoria Gardens on Saturday afternoon (29 October), has set up a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OccupyBrighton.

Among the slogans is one that says: “We are the 99 per cent.”

One of the protesters said: “The 99 per cent are those of us who aren’t on mega salaries. The 1 per cent earn on average £1.2 million a year.

“And those high earners are the people like the bankers who have made such a mess of the system but they’re still being rewarded.”

She said that there were more elements to the protest and that different people were moved by different injustices.

She added that almost everyone who had stopped by the protesters’ tents had been supportive including revellers out for the White Night celebrations on Saturday night (29 October).

Today Brighton and Hove City Council indicated that it may start court proceedings this week to seek repossession of the site.

This evening though Councillor Ben Duncan, the council’s cabinet member for community safety, said in a tweet: “I can’t make it but please reassure all there that despite Argus story to contrary Brighton Council has no eviction plans.”

The council’s Conservative opposition group leader said that the protesters were threatening to stay in Victoria Gardens indefinitely.

Councillor Geoffrey Theobald said that the latest protest came on the back of the Old Steine camp organised by Spanish students, in May.

He said that Green cabinet member Councillor Ben Duncan had described the Old Steine camp as “the model of the kind of engaged peaceful protest the council and the police are committed to facilitating”.

Councillor Theobald said: “The chickens are now coming home to roost for the Green administration.

“If you put out the message that it is OK to pitch a tent on any public space in the city without fear of sanction then what else can they expect?

“This is an incredibly sensitive location in the heart of the city on what is a very well-used piece of parkland.

“Brighton & Hove is a 365 day a year tourist city – within the last week or so we have seen the opening of the new Brighton O and the Pavilion ice rink will be opening again very shortly.

“What sort of impression are we giving visitors by allowing such encampments?

“We have seen all too clearly the problems that the St Paul’s protest in London has caused and the last thing local traders need is that sort of disruption.”

Councillor Theobald added: “If Occupy Brighton is really serious about improving the global economic situation, I would first urge them to think carefully about the negative impact they may be having on the local economy.

“If they really do have no intention of moving – as they have indicated – then the Green administration should be saying enough is enough and evicting them from this public land as a matter of urgency before things start to get out of hand.”

Hove Conservative MP Mike Weatherley also criticised the protesters.

He has recently written to Time Out magazine and the Daily Express newspaper about the tented camp outside St Paul’s.

Mr Weatherley said: “Quite simply, long-term camping in public spaces as a form of protest is unacceptable.

“Great thinkers and leaders did not find solutions to the world’s problems by lying around in public parks and squares.

“These campers are a distraction that, rather than helping taxpayers, are costing them dear in eviction and clean-up costs.”

Caroline Lucas, the Brighton Pavilion Green MP, tweeted earlier: “Hoping to come by the camp tomorrow morning (Tuesday 1 November), before going to Westminster to vote against criminalising squatting.”

Photographs from www.facebook.com/OccupyBrighton

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