London

Protesters end Carnegie Library occupation and hold rally

Library doors shut Image copyright @defendtheten
Image caption Security guards shut the doors of Carnegie Library as the protesters ended their occupation

A nine-day occupation of a south London library has ended, only hours before those inside were due to be evicted.

Campaigners for the "Defend the 10" group have been inside Carnegie Library in Loughborough Junction since 31 March, the day it was closed for a year.

Lambeth Council said its plans would "guarantee" the library's future.

Protesters voluntarily left at about 12:30 BST and marched to Brixton Library to show "the fight goes on".

The Carnegie and Minet libraries officially closed for a year on 1 April. The council said they would reopen in 2017 with a gym as "healthy living centres".

Image copyright @defendtheten
Image caption More than 2,000 people took part in the march, which began at Carnegie Library, campaigners say

A council spokesman said: "We are pleased that the occupiers have now left the building.

"It means we can now concentrate on spending our scarce resources on services instead of security, including developing the plans which will guarantee Carnegie Library's future.

"Carnegie will reopen with a library service that will remain free and open to all."

The authority added none of its 10 libraries were closing and the gym will be in the unused basement of the building.

'More than books'

The occupiers, including children and pensioners, were given 24 hours to leave from the point the order was served at 17:30 on Friday.

Campaigners said more than 2,000 people joined a march which began at Carnegie Library, passing by Minet Library before ending at Brixton Library, where a rally was held.

One protester, 11-year-old Denise, said: "Libraries are about more than books, they let people meet one another."

Image copyright @defendtheten
Image caption Campaigners marched from Carnegie up to Brixton library
Image copyright @defendtheten
Image caption Young campaigner Denise appeals for libraries to be saved
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The council says the closure is only temporary

Tom Brandon, from Friends of Lambeth Libraries which began the Defend the Ten campaign to save 10 libraries in the borough, was among those who stayed at the Carnegie since 31 March.

Earlier he said: "The message to Lambeth Council is the fight goes on and we will not give up on any of the libraries to turn into gyms or give away."

The group plans to attend cabinet meetings and demonstrate outside the office of Greenwich Leisure Limited - which has the contract to open gyms in the libraries.

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