London 2012: Basketball venue protesters face eviction

A tent and campaign poster Occupy London insists it is not a protest against the Olympics

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A High Court official has granted a possession order paving the way for the eviction of protesters opposed to the building of an Olympic training venue.

On Wednesday a judge ordered protesters to stop "unlawful activity" at Leyton Marsh, east London, where the basketball centre is being built.

Occupy London demonstrators and locals are camped on the site to try to stop the building of the training hall.

The order was issued to the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority.

It can now take steps to clear the encampment.

The court official, Master Matthew Marsh, made the order against "persons unknown" after being told that the protesters had set up tents, collected wood and made fires in breach of park by-laws.

Master Marsh said: "On the face of it there have been breaches of by-laws and a number of criminal offences have taken place."

A handful of activists attended court from the protest camp, which is located near an access road and the construction site perimeter fence on Leyton Marsh.

McKenzie friend

Attempts by them to oppose the possession order during the hour-long hearing were frustrated because none were willing to be named as residing at the camp.

Master Marsh ruled that, as they were not willing to be identified as "in possession of the land" - and possibly incur legal costs - they could not legally be considered defendants and allowed to oppose the making of the order.

Two individuals, Matthew Varnham and a person referred to as "Chris", offered to act as McKenzie friends (someone who assists a litigant in person in a common law court) and make submissions on the protesters' behalf.

The pair said the protest was being staged because the Olympic development had been pushed through without proper consultation and an environmental impact assessment.

They said they wished to argue that a possession order would violate the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association under articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

They applied for an adjournment so that they could take legal advice and properly prepare their case.

Refusing an adjournment, the master said McKenzie friends could only assist recognised defendants.

Local Labour councillor Ian Rathbone said Thursday's decision was "unfair".

'Talk not court'

He said the protesters included local people who had a reasonable objection to an "ugly three-storey" building being erected on "public, green land".

He argued that the Olympic Delivery Authority and the park authority should be holding discussions, not seeking court orders.

The possession order was made the day after London Olympic bosses were granted a High Court injunction to prevent the protesters hampering the construction of the basketball facility.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

About 20 demonstrators have been preventing trucks from entering the site.

Lawyers representing the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) had asked for an "urgent injunction" so that work could resume.

They claimed campaigners had "harassed and threatened" construction workers building the centre.

Planners gave permission on the basis that the centre would be demolished and land restored to its previous condition after the Games.

Mr Justice Arnold said the ODA was building the facility as part of an agreement with the regional park authority.

The injunction will run for 14 days, then the ODA will have to renew its application.

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