LONDON (Reuters) - Anti-capitalism activists lost their legal fight against eviction from outside London's landmark St Paul's Cathedral on Wednesday after three judges turned down their appeal application, heralding the end of their four-month protest.
The defeat in the Court of Appeal is likely to see the City of London Corporation, on whose land the activists have been camping, call in the bailiffs to remove dozens of tents and protesters inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest.
"It's not a surprise," Dan Ashman, one of the protesters told Reuters after the ruling. "Authorities are untouchable."
He said important equipment such as computers will be removed from the camp, which consists of between 150 and 200 tents, and then it would up to the protesters what they do next.
Other camps, especially in North America, have seen authorities use violence to forcibly evict protesters.
The London Corporation said it would wait until the application for an appeal had been heard before moving in, though an exact date is unclear and it is hoped the clearance can be done peacefully.
London Occupy, part of an international movement, has been protesting against corporate greed and bankers' bonuses.
The Corporation wants the camp removed on grounds of safety and hygiene, planning control, and interference with a public right of way and the rights of those who wished to worship in the Cathedral.
It won a case in the High Court last month for the tents to be taken away, but the protesters went to the Court of Appeal arguing their case had "unique and global" significance.
But Master of the Rolls, David Neuberger, one of the most senior judges in England and Wales, sitting in a packed but hushed court, dismissed their arguments.
"Far from it not being open to the judge to make the orders that he made, it seems to us that there is a very powerful case indeed for saying that, if he had refused to make any order in the City's favour, this court would have reversed them," he said in his judgment.
He also said the protesters' argument that their case was of great political importance "cannot be a factor which trumps all others, and indeed it is unlikely to be a particularly weighty factor."
The area around St Paul's Cathedral is a favourite with tourists and is bound to be a focal point for Olympic visitors this Summer. The vast domed baroque cathedral is one of central London's main landmarks and is where Prince Charles married Princess Diana in 1981.
The protesters chose to pitch their tents at the bottom of its steps last October after they were blocked from their intended target, the nearby square at the London Stock Exchange.
Their cause gained unintended publicity when the cathedral dithered and appeared divided on how to handle the sit-in.
Two senior Anglican clerics resigned, and MPs, including Prime Minister David Cameron, stepped into the fray.
The camp has drawn support from some artists and celebrities and received donations, but has also been accused of attracting the homeless and of being too diverse in its causes.
In the United States, police have cleared the flagship Occupy encampments in New York, Los Angeles, Oakland and other major cities although a handful of camps remain in place around the country.