London – Protesters facing a legal battle over the right to stay camped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral said Friday they have taken over a building owned by the UBS bank in east London.
Occupy London, whose protest against capitalist excess was inspired by New York’s Occupy Wall Street movement, said on its website it took over the abandoned office block in the neighborhood of Hackney overnight in a “public repossession.”
It is the first time the group has successfully occupied a building. Its failed effort to take over the London Stock Exchange led the protesters to set up camp outside the famed cathedral — sparking an ongoing dispute over whether they have a right to be there.
UBS, which confirmed it owns the empty building, said it is aware of the situation and is taking the appropriate legal action.
It is not clear how long the protesters will be able to remain outside St. Paul’s. The City of London Corporation has said it will go to court seeking an eviction notice after a deadline passed Wednesday for tents to be removed from the churchyard.
The first hearing will likely be next week, but the eviction process could take months.
The protesters — who have been camped at St. Paul’s since Oct. 15 — have said they will not budge.
On Friday, Occupy London said the building it occupied in east London will not be used for “residential” purposes but as an event and meeting space called the “Bank of Ideas.”
“Visitors are asked not to bring their sleeping bags,” the group said on its website.
It said speakers and events — from Palestinian activists to comedians — are being lined up.