St Paul’s stays cool as City turns up heat

by
17 November 2011

by Ed Beavan

THE Occupy tent protest at St Paul's is to continue, after a 24-hour eviction order served by the City of London Corporation expired at 6 p.m. yesterday. Legal representatives acting pro bono for the Occupy London group, John Cooper QC and Karen Todner, addressed the protesters in front of the Cathedral at 5 p.m. yesterday, pledging to act together in making sure the camp's interests would be "fearlessly defended".

Ms Todner told The Lawyer that none of the protesters were planning to move. The City was understood to be planning to issue High Court proceedings today, and the first case management conference is likely to be next week, she said. A full hearing could still be some time away, however.

On Wednesday the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral said it “recognised” the City of London Corporation’s right to evict the Occupy protesters, after the Corporation announced on Tuesday that it would be resuming legal action against the camp.

The Chapter met on Wednesday to discuss the latest move. After­wards, it said in a statement that it was “committed to maintaining St Paul’s as a sacred space in the heart of London” and praised “all cathed­ral staff for meeting the challenges of recent weeks.

“We recognise the local auth­ority’s statutory right to proceed with the action it has today. We have always desired a peaceful resolution, and the Canons will continue to hold regular meetings with repres­en­tatives of the protesters.

“We remain committed to con­tinuing and developing the agenda on some of the important issues raised by the protest.”

On Tuesday, the policy chairman of City of London Corporation, Stuart Fraser, said that negotiations between the Corporation and the camp had broken down, after protesters had refused to agree to leave early next year.

“We paused legal action for two weeks for talks with those in the camp on how to shrink the extent of the tents and to set a departure date, but got nowhere.

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“So, sadly, now they have rejected a reasonable offer to let them stay until the New Year, it’s got to go to the courts. We’d still like to sort this without court action, but from now on we will have any talks in parallel with court action, not in­stead.”

The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, said on Monday that the Cathedral Chapter remained united, and was “really engaged with the protest, which is not a protest against the Church”.

It was clear, he said, that the cathedral was not a “dangerous place to visit”, but staff members were having to deal with a high level of nuisance caused by a number of “people with needs”, not part of the protest, who were attracted to the camp.

Some protesters at the camp, however, felt that there had not been enough engagement with the cath­edral authorities. Nathan, from Texas, who works in the library tent at the camp, has been there for three-and-a-half weeks. He said that he had heard one cleric speak after the Lord Mayor’s Show, but no one else.

John, a retired legal officer, said that it was only the bad publicity that had led the cathedral to start engaging with the protesters. He had not seen any clergy in the camp.

The Archbishop of Canterbury praised the integrity of the Chapter during a speech at the Lord Mayor of London’s annual banquet in the Guildhall, attended by David Cameron. He said that St Paul’s was cur­rently sitting on a faultline between maintaining “local good order and the demands of a wider and more comprehensive justice”.

He continued: “It would be wrong not to mention on this oc­casion the particular costs that have been borne by the clergy of St Paul’s in holding the balance in this situa­tion.

“Armchair pontiffs may say what they will; but I doubt whether any­one in this hall tonight would refuse their tribute to the integrity and generosity of the Chapter of St Paul’s, in the face of such diverse pressures, and to the way they have dealt so honestly and patiently with conscientious differences of per­spective within their own number.

“They have tried hard to give space to a good many uncomfort­able and none-too-harmonious voices for the sake of our common moral good, without colluding in a mere chaos of sloganeering, and I hope they know that they can count at least on our understanding in this.”

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Seven St Paul’s protesters were arrested at the Guildhall after hold­ing a “People’s Feast” outside the event.

On Saturday, an Occupy protest sprung up outside Exeter Cathedral, consisting of about 20 tents. The Acting Dean of Exeter, Canon Carl Turner, said that they had had prior warning of the demonstrators’ arrival, and that, while the cathed­ral respected their right to peaceful protest, they were not permitted to stay there. The protesters wish to remain until February.

“We’re engaging with the protes­ters and communicating with them daily,” said Canon Turner. “They are nowhere near the financial institu­tions and have no protest against the Church.

“We don’t want to go down the route of evicting them, and we’ve had no discussion about how to end it; but we’re meeting regularly with the council and police over our concern for the safety of the com­munity.”

The protesters attended a Sunday evening Fresh Expressions service at the cathedral, which was followed by a debate on the Church and politics.

Wall Street unoccupied (above): churches in New York will continue to offer support to Occupy protesters in the city, after police broke up their camp on Tuesday morning. The Bishop of Long Island, the Rt Revd Lawrence Pro­ven­zano, encouraged churches to provide shelter to protes­ters, while the Priest-in-Charge of St Luke and St Matthew in Brooklyn, the Revd Michael Sniffen, said that they had a “broad base of clergy and lay people who are willing to house occupiers” throughout the winter if they had no new base for a camp. The Rector of Trinity, Wall Street, the Revd Dr James Cooper, said they would "continue to provide practical and pastoral help" to protestors, and they would keep all those involved in their prayers.

Wall Street unoccupied (above): churches in New York will continue to offer support to Occupy protesters in the city, after police broke up their camp on Tuesday morning. The Bishop of Long Island, the Rt Revd Lawrence Pro­ven­zano, encouraged churches to provide shelter to protes­ters, while the Priest-in-Charge of St Luke and St Matthew in Brooklyn, the Revd Michael Sniffen, said that they had a “broad base of clergy and lay people who are willing to house occupiers” throughout the winter if they had no new base for a camp. The Rector of Trinity, Wall Street, the Revd Dr James Cooper, said they would "continue to provide practical and pastoral help" to protestors, and they would keep all those involved in their prayers.

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