THE protesters entered quickly and quietly in trademark style. They left with similar speed, however, when they realised their takeover of a City office block – owned by Berkeley Homes – risked adding to the ranks of the poor, rather than helping them.
The takeover of Roman House in the Barbican was the shortest of the five “occupations” so far.
Activists entered the building on Saturday morning, highlighting the significant stakes in Berkeley held by taxpayer-funded Lloyds and hedge fund Egerton Capital. Barely 24 hours later, however, they had gone, after contractors told them they feared the loss of their jobs if a planned renovation of the building was cancelled because of the “Occupy Everywhere” demonstration.
The developer had called on activists to end the “misguided” protest because of safety concerns and threat to “90 much-needed new homes... [and] a significant number of key construction jobs during an economic crisis”.
Now Occupy supporters plan to stand in the elections for Mayor of London and the London Assembly. They will not form an “Occupy political party” but plan to stand as independents on 3 May. Last night activists said: “We need to seize the state – not flee it. This is direct action at the ballot box.” Their chances of success would appear very low, however, given the way Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone dominate London’s electoral landscape.
The move comes at a time when the activists are under increased pressure. They are fighting a possession order granted to Sun Street Properties, a subsidiary of UBS, after they took over a disused office block, near Liverpool Street station, in November. Last week the City of London Corporation won a High Court bid to evict protesters from outside St Paul’s Cathedral, although members of the group will appeal.
The activists have repeatedly called on the Corporation to publish full details of its accounts. They are due to hold a “teach out” in the open areas of the Barbican this morning.