Mayor joins Bishop of London asking St Paul's campers to go

Protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral The anti-capitalist protest camp was set up on 15 October

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London's mayor has joined the Bishop of London in calling on anti-capitalist protesters to quit their camp outside St Paul's Cathedral.

Boris Johnson, who has met cathedral and police officials, said protesters had made their point and "have to go."

Earlier, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres said the camp's presence threatened to "eclipse" the issues being raised.

Occupy London Stock Exchange (OLSX) said it was open "to dialogues" but intended to remain at the site.

'Important questions'

The camp was set up 11 days ago and led to the closure of the cathedral on Friday on health and safety grounds.

The OLSX activists said they were protesting at what they called corporate greed and inequality.

Analysis

St Paul's is caught in a difficult position.

The cathedral is part of a church which has spoken out vociferously against corporate greed, and as the Bishop of London Richard Chartres pointed out yesterday, it has pressed for shareholders to have more influence over executive pay.

When the protesters arrived last week, the Chancellor of St Paul's, Canon Dr Giles Fraser was quick to assert their right to free speech, and, as he thought, defuse a potentially violent encounter with the police.

Now the cathedral feels its good will is not being repaid and even Canon Fraser is prepared to see the law used to evict protesters, but not violence.

No-one in the cathedral chapter wants the spectacle of a situation like Dale Farm outside the west door, even on a far smaller scale.

It is understood that Canon Fraser would resign rather than tolerate the forcible removal of protesters.

Mr Johnson said: "With the greatest respect to their point of view, they have made it.

"You have got a situation in which London businesses, tourism, the cathedral, the ability of people to worship, I'm told, is being disrupted.

"That being so, if the cathedral authorities and the City of London Corporation can come to a common legal position I think that would be a good thing."

On Friday, the City of London Corporation's planning committee is due to hear legal advice and decide whether to take court action to move the demonstrators on.

'Mixed messages'

The bishop, the third most senior cleric in the Church of England, said: "This demonstration has undoubtedly raised a number of very important questions.

"The St Paul's Institute has itself focused on the issue of executive pay and I am involved in ongoing discussions with City leaders about improving shareholder influence on excessive remuneration.

"Nevertheless, the time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp's presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address.

"The Dean and the Chapter, who are responsible for St Paul's, have already made it clear that the protest should come to an end and I fully support that view."

Although the bishop is understood to have been briefed on the matter, the final decision will be taken by the Dean and the Chapter.

Ronan McNern, from OLSX, said the group was getting "mixed messages" as St Paul's Cathedral cited health and safety issues for closing the building to the public while the Bishop of London "did not reference the central issue".

WHO ARE THE PROTESTERS?

BBC London gave a form to 150 of the protesters asking them about themselves. The following is a snapshot of the protest camp makeup:

  • 81 out of 150 say they go home at night
  • 69 say they are unemployed
  • 50 say they have been to five or more demos in the past year
  • 39 say they receive benefits
  • 35 say they are students

Mr McNern said: "The Bishop of London's comment has nothing to do with health and safety, he has only talked about business.

"We are getting completely mixed messages. The bishop should get involved in some of our discussions (with the St Paul's Cathedral).

"We do want open dialogue and we do not want to be engaged in a battle in the media."

The Dean of St Paul's Cathedral, Rt Revd Graeme Paul Knowles, had repeatedly asked the protesters to leave before deciding to close its gates for the first time since World War II.

Demonstrators have refused several requests from church officials to move on.

The cathedral said it was losing up to £20,000 a day and held its Sunday services in private for the first time since 1940.

Meanwhile OLSX demonstrators have denied claims that several tents were unoccupied overnight.

The group said it has a "sign in/sign out system" in place to keep "vacancy to a minimum".

Earlier a City of London councillor, Matthew Richardson, claimed several empty tents were revealed by a thermal imaging camera used by City of London Police to monitor the camp.

The area around St Paul's Cathedral

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