Essex

Occupy Southend protest camp set up in churchyard

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe 25-strong Occupy Southend groups says they are in for the long haul

A group of protesters have set up camp in an Essex churchyard.

Members of Occupy Southend pitched several tents without permission in the grounds of St Mary the Virgin church in Prittlewell on Sunday afternoon.

They said it was part of a global movement to raise awareness of their concerns about capitalism and unfairness in society.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Chelmsford said it would be talking with the group over the next few days.

Six people slept in tents overnight and organisers hoped more people would join them.

Campaigner Neil Starky said: "We really don't know how long we'll be here, we'll take each day as it comes.

"We'd like to stay here for as long as possible and that the church will be on our side and will welcome us here."

Mr Starky said they had not yet spoken with the church to determine if they had that support.

"We didn't want to alert them that we were coming here, we wanted to be able to get onto the site first and talk to them later," he said.

Mr Starky said if they were asked to leave, it would be put to a vote, but "would doubt" whether they would go.

He added they were being careful to not damage the site.

'Sensitive to feelings'

In a statement, the Diocese of Chelmsford said: "The Occupy movement has been raising important questions about the sort of society people want to live in.

"We do want to listen to what they have to say.

"We ask them to be mindful of the fact that they are in a churchyard and to be sensitive to people's feelings."

Essex Police and Southend Borough Council said it was up to the church to decide whether to take action to clear the site.

James Duddridge, the Conservative MP for Rochford and Southend East, said while people had a right to protest it was "somewhat distasteful" to occupy a churchyard.

"This is a crass move and something that's insulting to the church and the normal citizens of Southend," he said.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites