Homelessness protesters living at a camp outside Leicester’s town hall for three weeks were evicted this morning.
Seven enforcement agents from the Sheriff’s Office, acting on behalf of the county court, moved in to remove the tents at 7.30am.
The protesters, led by homelessness campaigner James McLean, have vowed to set up another camp elsewhere in the city.
The eviction took place after an 18-month injunction was granted to Leicester City Council by Leicester County Court on Friday.
The city council successfully applied for a court order to stop Mr McLean from putting up tents and shacks on Jubilee Square, near the Clock Tower, and in Town Hall Square, where he set up the encampment on March 3.
But today, as the seven enforcement agents helped remove belongings from the site, the 38-year-old Scot vowed: “We’re not going anywhere. We’re just moving to a new location.”
Mr Mclean, who is not homeless, has also been ordered to pay £6,192.25 in court costs.
He said: “We were round at The Bridge, a soup kitchen run by the Salvation Army, having breakfast when we got a call to say the bailiffs were here and we came back to find this.
“We’re packing up as quickly as we can, but we’ve got a lot of stuff. There have been up to nine people staying here a night and we’ve had to turn people away because we’re full.”
He added that there were now around 1,000 signatures on five petitions going to local councillors, city MPs, Prime Minister Theresa May and the United Nations, calling for action on homelessness.
He added: “Homelessness affects the most vulnerable people in the city and local councils and Government are doing nothing about it.
“The problem is not going away, so we are not going away. We are just moving to another, as yet, undisclosed location.”
He said he intended to settle the matter of the outstanding £6,192.25 court costs with a promissory note under the Bill of Exchange Act, 1882
He added: “I will be held in contempt of court if I don’t pay by the end of March, but they have to accept a promissory note.”
Piotr Englot, 35, from Poland, who says he has been homeless since losing his papers three months ago and spent every night at the camp, said: “I was working until I lost my papers now no-one will employ me and that’s why I’m homeless. I don’t know what will happen now.”
People who passed the camp on their way to work showed sympathy for the protesters.
A woman said: “They don’t cause me any problems, but I’m not sure they should be allowed to stay there.”
Another said: “They’ve got something to protest about and it’s not like they’re attacking people.”
A young homeless man, who has not been staying at the camp, said: “You have to do something to get heard.”
But another woman said: “They’ve not caused me any problems, but I feel sorry for people who have their weddings at the town hall to see the tents with writing scrawled over them.”