CHRISTIAN ACTIVISTS removed from the steps of St Paul's while
praying during the eviction of the Occupy protest on Tuesday
morning have expressed shock and sadness at what they see as the
cathedral's complicity in violence.
Bailiffs and police arrived at the cathedral at midnight on 28
February to clear the Occupy camp, which first arrived in October.
A small number of Christians were already present, having pledged
to form a ring of prayer around the protesters. While praying on
the steps of the cathedral, they were forcibly removed by the
"The image of a row of police blocking the doors to the church
is quite an upsetting one," said the associate director of the
think tank Ekklesia, Symon Hill. "There were at least five of us
removed while praying. In total, I was removed three times. It was
He said that resistance to removal was "overwhelmingly"
non-violent: most protesters linked arms or held on to things, and
reported that the police seemed "confused" about whether the
cathedral had authorised the removal of people from the steps,
given that the court judgments sanctioning the eviction applied
only to land owned by the City of London Corporation.
"The cathedral Chapter and the Bishop of London have urgent
questions to answer," he said on Tuesday. "Did they know when the
eviction was due? Did they give permission to clear the steps,
and, if so, when and why?"
Siobhan Grimes, who was also removed, said: "Christianity is not
about using violence against people seeking economic justice. It is
not about protecting the most privileged. It's about responding to
the need of the world around us with confidence, humility and
courage. I chose to pray at the eviction because I think that's
what Jesus would have done."
An initial statement from St Paul's, issued on Tuesday morning,
said: "We regret that the camp had to be removed by bailiffs, but
we are fully committed to continuing to promote these issues
through our worship, teaching, and Institute." The cathedral had
been made to "re-examine important issues about social and economic
justice and the role the cathedral can play".
On Wednesday, the Chapter insisted that the police had not
asked for permission from the cathedral regarding any aspect of the
eviction, but confirmed that "we were clear that we would not stand
in the way of the legal process or prevent the police from taking
the steps they needed to deal with the situation in an orderly and
peaceful manner." A spokesman rebutted claims that police officers
had been spotted on the portico of the cathedral. No police were in
or on the cathedral, but "plenty of staff" were present, he
Jonathan Bartley, co-director of Ekklesia, says that he was
kicked in the back while being removed from the steps. During the
eviction, he filmed an interview with a police officer, who said
that the police had been given permission to clear the steps by the
cathedral, and cited Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Speaking
on Wednesday, Mr Bartley described the cathedral's latest statement
as "weasel words".
"It is tragic we have got to a situation whereby Christians who
were praying on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral were violently
dragged off, and I think St Paul's needs to reflect on the part
they played not only in bringing about this situation but causing
it to happen," he said.
The events of Tuesday morning had vindicated Canon Giles
Fraser's resignation of his St Paul's canonry in October, Mr
George Barda, a former Winchester Cathedral chorister, and one
of the evicted protesters, said on Tuesday that the events had
exposed a "theological faultline".
"The lack of inspired political agency applies to the Church as
much as others. I hope fervently that many more Christians will be
inspired, as things get more terrible, to take up arms in this
crucial historical fight. Long live the compassionate revolution.
We just need to ignite the belief that it is worth fighting for the
world we want to see."
Speaking before the eviction, another protester, Tammy Samede,
the defendant named in the eviction proceedings, said: "I am
disappointed, as the Church could have come out of this so much
better. It could have been a source that could have helped the
cause of social and economic justice. I wish they would have
joined forces a bit more and helped us out with that . . . rather
than help out the City of London unofficially."
By Tuesday morning, nothing remained of the camp except a single
Portaloo. Much of the deep clean ordered by the City had been
The policy chairman of the City of London Corporation, Stuart
Fraser, said that it was "regrettable" that the removal had had to
take place, "but the High Court judgment speaks for itself." The
High Court ruled On 18 January that the City of London Corporation
had "behaved both responsibly and fairly throughout" the
The City of London said that it had ensured that any vulnerable
people at the site were helped and supported to find appropriate
accommodation in partnership with Broadway, a homelessness
On Tuesday morning, however, Gbolagade Ibukun-Oluvwa, who was
removed from the camp during the eviction, said that the
accommodation provided had not been appropriate for his needs as
a disabled person in a wheelchair. He had been given a letter
directing him to Miriam Lodge, a hotel in Dartmouth Road, where he
had been driven during the night; but, he said, the hotel had not
had disabled access that would enable him to get into his room.
Speaking on Wednesday, Howard Sinclair, chief executive of
Broadway, confirmed that six members of his staff had attended the
eviction besides City of London staff, and had stayed at the site
until they were satisfied that vulnerable people had been cared
for. Broadway would now be working with homeless people to link
them to relevant services, which might involve directing them back
to their region or country of origin.
Mr Sinclair praised the City of London's approach. "In terms of
how they have thought about and catered and planned for vulnerable
people who were attracted to the camp, they have acted with real
integrity and thought and care, and I do not say that about every
local authority," he said on Wednesday.
Occupy London has promised to continue its protest.
"The City of London Corporation and St Paul's Cathedral have
dismantled a camp and displaced a small community, but they will
not derail a movement" the protesters' press team said on Tuesday.
"Be assured that plans are already afoot: plans of some ambition,
employing a diversity of tactics and delivered with the aplomb
you would expect from us."
Some of the protesters are now occupying Finsbury Square on the
northern edge of the City. A spokesman for Islington Council,
which manages the Square, said that the protesters did not have
permission to be there. It was "closely monitoring" the
"We support the right to peaceful protest, but this has to be
balanced with the needs of the community," he said. "At a time of
huge government cuts to our budgets, we are very reluctant to
waste vital money on expensive legal action, but we have not ruled
it out if we are left with no choice."
The City of London estimates that the St Paul's camp has cost
£590,000 since October in legal fees, policing, bailiffs, and
The director of the Contextual Theology Centre, Canon Angus
Ritchie, said on Wednesday that the challenge for the camp now -
"and for us all" - was to "turn anger into practical action".
A poll organised by the Bible Society after the eviction on
Tuesday found that 56 per cent of the 800 Christians who responded
thought that the protesters should have been allowed to stay.
On Saturday, Occupy Southend was urged by the diocese of
Chelmsford to leave the churchyard of St Mary's, Prittlewell,
immediately or face legal action. A diocesan spokesman described
the occupation, which started on 19 February, as "unlawful,
disrespectful, and inappropriate".