Occupy campaigners warned weekend rally must not turn into new camp

Occupy Edinburgh's St Andrew Square takeover. Picture: TSPL

Occupy Edinburgh's St Andrew Square takeover. Picture: TSPL

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PROTESTORS from the movement which took over St Andrew Square for more than four months have been warned they face immediate eviction if they set up camp this weekend.

Occupy Edinburgh intends to hold a rally at the city centre park tomorrow afternoon, with organisers indicating they intend to take over the site once again.

Essential Edinburgh – the business group which manages the gardens – secured an eviction order last January, granting the power to forcibly remove campers, and today threatened to use the court action again.

The Occupy Edinburgh movement protested between October 2011 and January 2012 against the behaviour of state-owned banks and the failure of firms such as Starbucks to pay tax, but became dogged by complaints of public urination, defecation and drunkenness.

One member of the camp was referred to the procurator fiscal for allegedly damaging a Jewish menorah, although Occupy leaders stressed that such incidents were isolated.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, which represents 600 traders in the city centre, said businesses had already raised concerns over a repeat of last year.

He said: “If Occupy feel the need to have a rally on Saturday then they will do that, but our position is we will go straight to eviction if they camp at the site.

“We want to send a pre-emptive message that this kind of action won’t be allowed to go ahead. Unlike last year, there will be no discussion.

“There were persistent drink and drugs issues with the Occupy camp last year and we’re not prepared to allow this to happen again.

“We might be able to use the previous injunction which would be very quick, but even if we had to reapply, due to time elapsed, the evidence is clearly there and we would no doubt secure a new one.”

According to figures released at the time, the four-month occupation of St Andrew Square, and later The Meadows, cost Edinburgh City Council around £12,000 in legal and security costs and Lothian and Borders Police around £48,250 on policing.
Legal fees and clean-up costs borne by Essential Edinburgh – which are understood to have ran in to tens of thousands of pounds – make the total amount significantly higher.

Chief Inspector Richie Adams, from Lothian and Borders Police, said: “We are aware of a proposed meeting of Occupy Edinburgh in St Andrew Square on Saturday, and are working with our partners at Edinburgh City Council and Essential Edinburgh to facilitate peaceful protest should it take place.”

Facebook users took to the “Re-occupy” Edinburgh site, run by an account named Guy Forks, to voice their support for the rally. However, a number also reported concerns about the way the camps have been run in the past.

A statement from the organisers on the site read: “Occupy Edinburgh have announced that on Saturday the 12th of January they will take to the streets with tents, banners and re-occupy the streets once more.”