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Occupy London: Campaigners Debate Arrest Strategy Ahead Of Eviction

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An Occupy London protestor outside the High Court in London
An Occupy London protestor outside the High Court in London

In the middle of the large, two-room communal tent, old, donated pieces of furniture form a circle for a meeting. The atmosphere is damp and lived in. Books sit on rickety shelves. A poster hangs limply on the wall. "You can't ever have enough of things you don't need," it reads.

Tomorrow is eviction day. The protesters are due to be removed from the deserted UBS building they have occupied since 18 November. Later this week, the tents that for more than 100 nights have sat in the shadow of Wren's famous old cathedral will finally be cleared. Yet the mood inside the tent remains fierce and defiant.

Gathered from all walks of life, the Occupy demonstrators sit for their weekly meeting - perhaps their last. The meeting is scheduled to "activist time" (which turned out to be around 7.25pm).

Having made the mistake of asking who the chairman is, I am quickly walked through Occupy meeting protocol.

"Oh it's your first time? There is no chairman and be warned, things can get pretty heated inside the tent," a young, well-spoken resident of the "warm" UBS building tells me.

She runs us through the hand signals used within the group, which were optimistically introduced to aid fast and effective discussions. There's the swirling of the hands, which translates to "shut up you're rambling". With passionate minds leading conversations off-piste, it is used more than once...

Then comes a quick catch-up on the news from their brothers at Occupy Sheffield, including the idea of introducing pop-up occupations in different neighbourhoods if the main camp in London is forced to disband. There is also a nod to how their Northern counter-parts are effectively dealing with alcohol and violence around the camp, with a firmer no-tolerance attitude.

The minute-taker is designated - even anarchists need some order - and so talk turns to the looming removals.

Strategy talk is all well and good, but without a main campsite, Occupy's presence in the City will be greatly reduced.

Having lost their high-court battle against the City Of London Corporation last Wednesday, and having dropped a challenge to their eviction from the UBS building, the reality of the camp ending has become a stark reality.

No one says they will be leaving quietly. One enthusiastic protester pipes up to announce the song classes will be creating some catchy jingles to keep up morale come D-Day.

The protesters, many seasoned activists with a good working knowledge of the eviction process, also plot out their more practical strategies for the arrival of the bailiffs.

However, it's clear there is one thing they can't decide on - arrests.

While one man demands a list be put together of people who are willing to be arrested, and an Occupier from the LA movement tries to get her head around the UK bail system, another man stands up to ask why arrests are even being discussed.

"Surely no one will be arrested as they are not coming to move us, they are only moving our tents?" It's a good question.

Stuart Fraser, the City of London Corporation's policy chairman, recently said: "We took this action to clear the tents and equipment at St Paul's.

"We hope the protesters will now remove the tents voluntarily. If not, and subject to any appeal proceedings, we will be considering enforcement action as soon as possible.

''Lawful protests are a regular part of City life but tents, equipment and increasingly, quite a lot of mess is not what a highway is for and the public generally is losing out - as evidence before the court made clear.''

Technically there is no reason for arrests to be made, but that isn't stopping the Occupiers from being prepared. As I left the debate raged on. Young and old, the observable and the masked, the British and the foreign, united in their hatred of fat cats, bonuses, banks and everything therein.

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