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Police begin eviction of Occupy London camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral
LONDON (AP) ' Police and bailiffs began dismantling Occupy London's campsite outside St. Paul's Cathedral late Monday, clearing one of the longest-surviving encampments inspired by the New York protest against capitalist excess.
The protesters said vans loaded with police arrived at the site before midnight.
The local authority, the City of London Corporation, confirmed the eviction was under way by bailiffs, backed by police.
"We regret that it has come to this," the corporation said in a statement, asking protesters to move on peacefully.
Civic authorities have an eviction order allowing them to remove the activists' tents, though not the protesters themselves.
There appeared to be several dozen protesters at the site, down from hundreds at the height of the camp.
As bailiffs in fluorescent jackets began to drag tents and their contents to waiting trucks and dumpsters, some protesters attempted to wear their tents as clothing and others used wooden pallets to form barricades. Police in riot gear formed lines nearby, but there were no immediate reports of arrests.
Protesters inspired by New York's Occupy Wall Street movement have been camped outside the 300-year-old church since October.
They say they are exercising freedom of speech and drawing attention to a warped capitalist system that spawned a global financial crisis.
Local authorities claim the camp has harmed nearby businesses, caused waste and hygiene problems, and attracted crime and disorder.
Last week, a court rejected the protesters' challenge to the eviction order, ruling that the right to protest did not justify a semi-permanent camp on a public pathway.
The protesters set up camp outside the cathedral after they were prevented from camping in front of the nearby London Stock Exchange.
Their proximity to Christopher Wren's architectural icon embroiled the church in a conflict between bank-bashing protesters and the city's finance industry. The church's position on the protesters has shifted several times, and the cathedral's dean and a senior priest both resigned over the crisis.
Occupy London: http://occupylsx.org/
City of London Corporation: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation