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Dean of St Paul's 'regrets abuse' by Occupy protesters

19 October 2012

PA

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 on Sunday (pictured).

The evensong incorporated prayers from members of Occupy Faith, to mark the anniversary of the camp's 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, a statement from St Paul's said, "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 steps up to the west door with the slogan: "Throw the moneychangers out of the Temple."

The four women - Siobhan Grimes, Alison Playford, Josie Reed, and Tammy Samede - remained chained to the pulpit during the organ recital and the communion service that followed evensong. Ms Grimes, who worships at St John's, Waterloo, is a member of Christianity Uncut, a network of anti-capitalist Christians. Ms Samede, also an Anglican, and Ms Reed, a Quaker, are part of the Occupy movement, along with Ms Playford.

The statement from St Paul's 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."

In the statement, 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."

Speaking on Monday, Dr Ison said that he had agreed to meet the protesters, and had asked them to email him to arrange a date. He said that, since his installation in May, he had publicly offered to meet the Christians who had been removed from the steps, but had "received no request [to meet]" (News, 8 June).

Ms Grimes was one of the five Christians removed from the steps of St Paul's while praying during the eviction of the Occupy protest earlier this year ( News, 2 March). She said that she had decided to take direct action after "lots of prayer" and as a "last resort". She continued: "We were very careful not to interrupt any acts of worship as much as we possibly could, beyond reading our statement."

She said that several worshippers had approached the women during the Peace to thank them for being there. "There was no conflict between us and other people in the church," she said.

She described the cathedral's invitation for Occupy members to read prayers at the service as "tokenistic".

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".

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