The building, on Hardinge Street, Shadwell had been taken over by a group called Autonomous Winter Shelter who said it had been sheltering about 40 homeless people in the building since November 2022.
Police arrived about 10am to enact an eviction.
Alex, an activist who has been living inside the “peaceful community” since November last year said the police activity was “crazy”.
“We have over 40 people in here but a lot of people ran away when they saw the riot squad. It’s probably one of the most expensive attempted evictions I have ever seen.
“Some people are still inside but we are leaving.
“They gave us no warning, they came with a whole riot squad for homeless people. It was horrible can you imagine?
“I am very angry. Others were terrified and ran away, most of the organisers are just trying to help rough sleepers.”
Police served an eviction notice to the group on April 30 claiming it was a criminal offence to occupy the former convent.
It added: “If you do not vacate the building within 21 day of the date of this letter then the Metropolitan Police will take further action and you may be subject to arrest.”
The Autonomous Winter Shelter said it had taken in six survivors from a fatal Shadwell fire house fire that broke out in a flat in early March.
Survivors had been provided with temporary accommodation provision by Tower Hamlets council but this is believed to have ended.
Tower Hamlets mayor Lutfur Rahman had written to police telling them to back off, endorsing a previous email to the Met from the Advisory Service For Squatters (ASS) that said: “In the circumstances … police intervention … would clearly be inappropriate and we would suggest unlawful.”
Met Police officers handed them a Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment Offenders Act 2012 which makes it illegal to squat in a residential building last month.
Scotland Yard has been approached for comment.
The Evening Standard has approached the owners of the building for comment.