Eviction notices for Occupy campers accused of wreaking havoc in square

ANTI-CAPITALIST protesters, accused of “aggressive” and “antisocial” behaviour, have been served with eviction notices in the Edinburgh city centre square where they are camped.

The notices were stuck around the ad-hoc campsite in the privately owned St Andrew Square Garden yesterday despite a bid by campaigners to win a reprieve. A court hearing is expected in the next fortnight.

The Occupy Edinburgh group, which is believed to have about 20 protesters camping in the park, said it had been waiting for a formal response to suggestions for a compromise to avoid eviction when the notices were suddenly posted.

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However, the head of the business group responsible for maintaining the square, said the protesters had been given “ample opportunity” to make their views known over the past few months and had not been willing to scale down the camp.

Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, said: “It is unfortunate it has come to this point, but we cannot allow this to continue forever.”

A spokesman for Occupy Edinburgh last night hinted it might be preparing to quit the garden, saying they intended to carry on “in some form”.

The protest group is believed to be divided over whether to move to an alternative site.

There are concerns public support has ebbed in recent weeks and that the response to the campaign on internet message boards has turned hostile. Princes Street Gardens and the Meadows are among the options thought to have been discussed by the city council, which is said to support the eviction move.

The Scotsman revealed this week that Essential Edinburgh, which had previously happily accommodated the protest camp, had changed its stance, claiming “enough is enough” after a series of complaints from businesses around the square, including Harvey Nichols, RBS, Sainsbury’s and Virgin Money.

The notice posted at the campsite said the protesters had been threatening workers, intimidating the public, damaging grass, vandalising the garden, behaving in an “aggressive and antisocial manner”, urinating in public and defecating on site.

Mr Neal added: “We recognise and are sympathetic to the right to protest and free assembly, but the protesters have had ample opportunity to make their views known. What we have seen, sadly, is an escalation in antisocial issues, meaning we feel obliged to bring this to an end.

“We have sought to have a negotiated settlement, but we have been met with a complete lack of genuine willingness to compromise on the scale of the camp, and so we have been left with no choice.”

Chris Sharp, for Occupy Edinburgh, said: “We are disappointed Andy Neal has initiated the legal process, despite stating that he would fully consider the proposals we put forward.

“There is a determination to stick together and make it work, whatever we do. There is strong resolve that Occupy Edinburgh will continue in some form.”

Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central, said: “The protest began with a carnival atmosphere and was widely felt to be a quirky but not unwelcome addition to the square. Now that protester numbers have dwindled and there have been accounts of severely antisocial behaviour, I think the protesters need to seriously consider whether they are helping their cause.”