Occupy campers Steve Jason, Vito Gomez and Chris Lynch
Published: 25 May, 2012
by PAVAN AMARA
FINSBURY Square campers have warned that the Town Hall will be indirectly pushing them into illegal activity if they are evicted.
The camp, started in late October last year as part of the worldwide Occupy movement, was slapped with an eviction notice by Islington Council a fortnight ago.
Last week, political activists at the camp said they were moving to east London, but a core band – as many as 50 – are refusing to leave.
Vito Gomez, 32, began camping in Parliament Square last year, before moving to Occupy at St Paul’s, and finally to Finsbury Square.
“This is the last stand of desperate people,” he said. “The camp was splitting a few months ago. You had the original political protestors, and then you had people who had a lot of problems – drink, drugs, mental health – but people found it hard to turn them away.
“Eventually, there were more of them than the political people, and the political guys and girls moved on elsewhere.”
Steve Jason, 22, said the smell of vodka had replaced breakfast cooking in the mornings.
“The big problem is that a lot of people are homeless, and they feel like, if they leave here, they’ll be turfed out onto the streets, and remember, it is illegal to live on the streets,” he said.
“So they either live here, or they live illegally out there.
“Out there they have no internet access to look for jobs either, but here they could maybe borrow someone’s laptop. Although those with laptops and ideas have mostly moved on now.
“The homeless people will be forced into stealing, or living somewhere where there are already occupants. If they leave here, it’ll be back to breaking the law.”
But the council says its housing and street outreach teams have been working with campers to find alternative accommodation, and providing them with a free bus pass to get there.
It has also commissioned The Pillion Trust charity, which works with homeless people , to attend the site daily and give advice.
Chris Lynch, 24, is helping to plan for another Occupy site elsewhere in London, but was at the Finsbury Square site this week to collect some of his belongings.
“I don’t think the people here will move because they’ve got nothing to move for,” he said.
“A lot of people have no family, and when they’re on the streets they’re abused, but here they’ve found somewhere they’re safe and comfortable.”
The council estimates eviction could cost as much as £100,000.
Labour community safety chief Councillor Paul Convery said: “We hope it will be less and are asking people to leave the site to help save badly-needed money at a time of huge government cuts.
“We have achieved a negotiated end to the occupation and are pleased that the overwhelming majority of Occupy protestors are now leaving the square.
“We are doing absolutely everything possible to ensure that the two dozen or so vulnerable, homeless people can go to a secure place of shelter rather than sleep on the street.
“The protest has now moved on and there is no reason for anyone to be camped out in Finsbury Square.
“We are now making plans to clean, repair and renovate the square so it can be returned to its proper use as a public amenity.”