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Protesters chain themselves to St Paul’s pulpit

Ed Thornton

by Ed Thornton

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 @ 10:02

THE Dean of St Paul's, the Very Revd Dr David Ison, accused Occupy protesters of abusing the cathedral's hospitality, after four protesters chained themselves to the pulpit during evensong yesterday.

The evensong service yesterday had been scheduled to include prayers by members of Occupy Faith, to mark the anniversary of the camp arriving at St Paul's ( Features 12 October). But just before Dr Ison got up to preach, a group of four women chained themselves to the pulpit and, said a statement from St Paul's, "shouted out a list of grievances against St Paul's as well as reading part of the Bible". Dr Ison "allowed them to speak, following which the rest of the service continued without interruption".

Outside the cathedral, protesters had unfurled a banner on the cathedral steps with the slogan: "Throw the moneychangers out of the Temple."

The four women remained chained to the pulpit during the organ recital and the communion service which followed evensong. St Paul's said that Dr Ison "engaged in dialogue" with the protesters, who "agreed to meet him and others from the cathedral as soon as could be arranged".

The statement continued: "Although invited to do so, the protesters refused to give permission for their chains to be removed. The normal procedure for when people refuse to leave places of worship was then followed: the police were called to assist in moving those people on, and after half an hour of further discussion the protesters cut themselves free and left peacefully of their own accord."

Dr Ison said: "After working constructively together with Occupy Faith [a branch of Occupy] on this act of worship, we regret the abuse of the cathedral's hospitality and its daily worship. We also disagree with the way in which some protesters are continuing to pursue the agenda of conflict with St Paul's, rather than consulting with us about how together we might better achieve the reforms which many people including Occupy are looking for."

Christianity Uncut, a network of anti-capitalist Christians which organised the protest, along with Occupy London, said in a statement today that the protest was "a non-violent and dignified act of witness". Two of the protesters were Anglicans, it said.

Symon Hill, a member of Christianity Uncut, said that the invitation to read prayers in the service was "tokenistic" and showed "just how far St Paul's Cathedral has to go to live up to its own rhetoric about economic justice".

Siobhan Grimes, one of the women who chained herself to the pulpit, said:  "During the action, we managed to speak with the Dean of St Paul's about Christianity and economic inequality, the questionable investments held by the Church of England and the unethical corporations that sponsor St Paul's Cathedral, including Goldman Sachs.  We have been offered a further meeting with the Dean to speak about economic justice and faith. I really hope this meeting happens."

On Saturday, about 400 people gathered outside St Paul's for "GlobalNoise", which Occupy London described as "a global day of protest to highlight the fact that people are still here, one year on, united and more determined than ever".

Writing on the Guardian website yesterday, Canon Giles Fraser said: "As the Occupiers reminded the Church today, Jesus angrily ejected the moneychangers from the temple. It's hard to imagine circumstances in which the Church of England would ever do the same."

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