Kenneth Clarke
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's name appears on possession order issued to Occupy London activists (Reuters) Reuters

Occupy London activists claim their eviction from an abandoned London school was rushed through despite them preparing to lodge an appeal.

Shortly after the Occupy London camp was removed from St Paul's, Occupy activists squatting in Moorfields School in Bunhill Road, Islington, dubbed the "School of Ideas", were turfed out by bailiffs and police.

Bailiffs held a possession order for the building, which Justice Secretary Ken Clarke had witnessed, and removed the squatters despite an ongoing appeal against the eviction.

Peter Phoenix, one of the evicted Occupy activists who has been on the receiving end of 20 years of possession orders, said it was the first time the name of a justice secretary had appeared as a witness on a document served on him. The Justice Department said it was standard practice.

Phoenix claimed the bailiffs were "very reluctant" to show the squatters the papers and that the eviction decision was made very high up.

The deadline to submit an application to appeal against the possession order had not passed. Protesters were in the process of putting in their application but were removed before they had a chance to formally submit the papers, they said.

Phoenix said that the bailiffs and police were "pushing people out of the building".

"It was a bit of a surprise. They cleared a lot of people out and then surrounded the place with about 40 or 50 police," he said.

A few activists were allowed to re-enter the building and collect belongings, but not all items - including computers, passports, and clothes - were recovered.

"Then we were told they are handing it [the building] over to contractors and they are going to send a bulldozer in at 6am to demolish the whole place," Phoenix said.

By 8am the building had been torn down, with some of the Occupy protesters' belongings scattered among the rubble.

"It is absolutely outrageous behaviour," Phoenix said.

After Moorfields School was closed down by the local council, the land on which it sat was sold off to Southern Housing Group in a 2009 multimillion pound deal.

The group, which was awarded the possession order against the squatters on 14 February, had its original plans to build housing on the land rejected for not having enough affordable homes included.

It received permission to demolish the old school and is awaiting feedback on new plans to build homes on the land.

A spokeswoman for Southern told the Islington Tribune that demolition work had already started before the squatters moved in. The building posed serious safety risks, she said.

Phoenix said that the local community had welcomed the squatters and taken part in community events held by Occupy London in the building.