Occupy Nottingham protest comes to an end
OCCUPY Nottingham has left the Old Market Square after 190 days camped out in the city centre.
Protesters set up camp on October 15 as part of a global movement campaigning on economic and environmental issues and fighting perceived inequality across the world.
But they said they could not afford to fight a legal battle with Nottingham City Council to stay on the site, which the protesters say could cost as much as £30,000.
The council had argued the camp was blocking a public highway, but the camp said they were exercising their right to protest.
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Yesterday, members of the camp and council employees set about removing tents and fencing from the site into dustbin lorries.
Ashley Jones, 23, who has been camping at the site, said the protesters could not afford to fight the case.
He said: "Basically we are leaving because it would cost between £20,000 and £30,000 to fight this legal battle.
"We can't afford to do that – we have raised some money, but only a few hundred quid.
"We don't know who would be able to pay for it, and even if we won we wouldn't feel it was fair for the taxpayer to have to pick up that cost."
The council had been seeking an eviction notice against the campers, with a judge ordering a three-day trial to hear the issues around the case set for April 30.
Mr Jones said: "We never wanted to go to battle with the council, but they have treated us quite badly.
"They are arguing we are trespassing by being here, but people use the square all the time.
"We are leaving the site, but we hope to do other things in the future, and maybe we will be camping out again at some point.
"I think the camp has helped to just raise awareness about a number of global issues, and we would want to carry that on."
Another member of the group, Carl Freeman, of Lenton, said he felt equally sad and proud as he set about dismantling the camp.
He added: "These past 190 days have been draining and we need time to regroup, come up with some fresh ideas and set about implementing those.
"The decision to leave wasn't taken very easily, but we all felt it was the right thing to do at this moment in time.
"We feel we have been good neighbours to the city of Nottingham and we're helping clear the site up – I'm very proud of what we have achieved in getting our message across to the people of Nottingham."
According to Mr Freeman, the decision to leave the Old Market Square was first mooted by the camp on Wednesday last week, and finally approved on Friday.
He said: "We are one of the longest-surviving Occupy camps in Europe and maybe even the world, and I would like to thank the people of Nottingham for supporting us in getting this far with their donations or good wishes.
"Going forward, we are looking at becoming mobile and going into communities to communicate our message.
"Nothing concrete is planned at this stage – we need to think it over – but this is not the end of Occupy."
Alex Norris, portfolio holder for area working, cleansing and community safety at Nottingham City Council, welcomed the news that the protest was coming to an end.
He added: "It's best for everyone involved that the Occupy protesters look to have finally decided to leave the Old Market Square.
"Throughout, we've been clear that although we respect their right to protest and the causes on which they have made a stand, the city centre should not be used for encampments and they could not remain there indefinitely."