THE Occupy protesters remained outside St Paul’s Cathedral for the start of Christmas, after the High Court postponed a decision about whether the camp should be removed until the New Year.
The judge, Mr Justice Lindblom, who visited the camp on Monday of last week, announced last Friday, after a five-day hearing, that he would not rule before 11 January on whether to grant possession and injunction orders to evict the protesters. “Given that the hearing has taken as long as it has, I feel that I shall need to reflect on my decision,” he said.
The Registrar of St Paul’s, Major-General Nicholas Cottam, who submitted a witness statement for the City of London Corporation, gave evidence on Tuesday of last week. He said that St Paul’s was concerned about the impact that the camp was having on the cathedral as a place of worship. The cathedral was “a sacred space. It’s not a working building. It’s not the Stock Exchange. It’s not a bank. The cathedral has said very clearly on several occasions it would wish the camp to go.”
John Cooper QC, representing the protesters, said that St Paul’s was attempting to take action against the protesters “by the back door”. During the hearing, Mr Cooper also said that the camp did “not prevent or restrict those who worship . . . at St Paul’s”, and that “criminal activity has not increased.”
David Forsdick QC, the counsel for the City of London Corporation, said that the right to protest did not justify a semi-permanent campsite on the public highway. He described the presence of the camp as interfering with the rights and freedoms of others.
On Christmas morning, the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres, spoke to the protesters, and presented them with a gift of a large box of chocolates. The Daily Telegraph reported the Bishop as saying that the canons of St Paul’s had been “very imaginative and consulting with the protesters about how to leave a legacy of the protests. We are looking for ways of honouring what has been said when the camp moves on.”
In a Christmas message issued on Thursday of last week, Bishop Chartres said that the Occupy protests showed “how impossible it is to live as if finance and ethics are unconnected”. The initiative that he has asked Ken Costa, a Christian investment banker, to set up, London Connection, was not intended to be “another institution, or to produce another report, but to work for a sustainable link between finance and the moral and social fabric”.
In his sermon at St Paul’s on Christmas morning, Bishop Chartres said: “The global balance of power is changing, and here at home, at a time of financial stringency, there is an urgent search for how human beings and communities can flourish at a time when having and consuming more and more things no longer seems a plausible road to happiness.
“Today’s good news is that God so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to wean us away from our obsession with power over things and people. . . He comes to initiate us into a way of generous living; in love with God and his world which involves loving ourselves and our neighbours equally.”
A spokeswoman for Occupy London, Naomi Colvin, said that a group of protesters had attended the eucharist at St Paul’s on Christmas morning. She said: “We have had so many dealings with the cathedral, and meet with members of the cathedral fairly often, but to see it used in that setting was quite something.”
The protesters ate Christmas dinner, consisting of turkeys and other food donated by supporters. “It’s a different Christmas, but it’s still sort of a family Christmas in a way,” Ms Colvin said.