Occupy London: St Paul's Cathedral closes due to demo

The protest camp outside St Paul's Cathedral in central London The protesters have been outside St Paul's Cathedral since Saturday

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St Paul's Cathedral has closed to visitors for the first time since World War II because of protesters camping on its doorstep, its dean has said.

The decision was taken with a "heavy heart" for health and safety reasons, said the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles.

Anti-capitalist demonstrators from Occupy London Stock Exchange have been in St Paul's Churchyard since Saturday.

The group said they were "disappointed" by the closure but they planned to continue the protest.

Following a meeting of the protesters, one of the group, who gave her name as Lucy, said: "It was felt by everyone that we really wanted to stay and continue with the protest.

"This protest is massive, it affects everybody, everyone's watching at home right now.

"It's not just about a few people who have got some tents in St Paul's, it's not a stunt, it's not a spectacle."

Earlier a statement from Occupy London Stock Exchange said the camp had been reorganised in order to meet fire safety concerns.

Police presence

The dean has asked the activists to move on from the area by the entrance.

"We have a legal obligation to keep visitors safe and healthy," he said.

Peter, a supporter from Occupy London Stock Exchange, said: "What we are doing is we are informing everybody of the current situation and from then on we will be deciding if any further action will be taken on everyone's behalf.

"We knew this would be a difficult occupation and I don't think that we can just give up at this very moment."

The cathedral was closing to members of the public after a service on Friday afternoon.

Dean Knowles: "The decision to close St Paul's Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times"

On Sunday the cathedral's canon chancellor, the Reverend Giles Fraser, said he had asked for the police presence outside the building to be scaled back.

By Wednesday, the higher number of protesters meant officials had to review "the extent to which it can remain open for the many thousands coming this week as worshippers, visitors and in school parties".

Speaking outside the cathedral on Friday, Dean Knowles said: "I have written an open letter to the protesters this afternoon, advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul's Cathedral until further notice.

"With so many stoves and fires and lots of different types of fuel around, there is a clear fire hazard.

"Then there is the public health aspect, which speaks for itself.

"The dangers relate not just to cathedral staff and visitors but are a potential hazard to those encamped."

'No safety issues'

The 200 staff and 100 volunteers, who work at the cathedral, would continue coming to work "as usual", a spokeswoman said.

Sunday services have been suspended until further notice but small gatherings of up to 100 people would still be allowed inside the church to enable planned weddings to go ahead, the cathedral said.

It is the only the second time Sunday services have been cancelled - the other time was during World War II, when the cathedral was closed in 1941 for four days during the Blitz.

Protesters' tents outside the cathedral Activists said the camp had been reorganised to leave clear access paths

Last year the cathedral earned an average of £22,600 a day from commercial activities, which included income from 820,000 paying visitors.

A statement from the protesters said: "Since the beginning of the occupation six days ago, OccupyLSX have tried hard to accommodate the cathedral's concerns in any way we can.

"Over the past 48 hours, we have completely reorganised the camp in response to feedback from the fire brigade and we have also accepted the presence of two large barriers to preserve access to the side door of the Cathedral.

"This afternoon we have been told, in a telephone call, by the fire brigade, that they have not issued any new requirements above and beyond those already communicated directly to the camp. Therefore, there are no outstanding fire safety issues."

The statement called on the cathedral to specify its "precise safety concerns", saying the closure of the restaurant "mystified" them as the access to it had "never been blocked by the encampment".

City of London Corporation's policy and resources committee chairman, Stuart Fraser, said: "We hope common sense will prevail and those camping around the cathedral will recognise that they are damaging the integrity of their protest by their actions - and they decide to disband in a peaceful manner."

The area around St Paul's Cathedral

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  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    These self serving time wasters should be moved on immediately by the police, who tried to keep the Cathedral open initially. The Dean must take his share of responsibility for telling the police to leave the protesters in the first place. I trust he will now be considering his own position - or is it only politicians who have to leave office when they make bad judgements?

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    These so called protestors Again, sadly, it about individuals rights. This time to protest, without a clear purpose, and earlier this week about an illegal encampment. Heaven and earth is moved to protect the rights of individuals and the fringes of society but no one stands up for the rights of the larger society. Sad, incredibly sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    So the protestors have forced the closure of a Capitalist enterprise that charges people to enter... A positive outcome for the protest, I'd say!

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    I wonder how many of these protesters will be sat in bank offices asking for jobs or mortgages in the future ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    Perhaps this is the last act of desparate people, trying to demonstrate their frustration at a system they disagree with? Thats okay, it's their right and many feel similar.

    The 'demonstration culture' has become an odd and wasteful state of mind. We cannot 'occupy the City' and expect positive change by that act?

    We already know the problems. Organised whining will change nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    Dear BBC, there's nothing "anti-capitalist" about being unhappy at PUBLIC money being used to save failed PRIVATE business (the banks). In fact the opposite, the capitalist approach would be to let them fail, with their private losses.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    From The Guardian, investment banker watching the camp:

    "Even if they don't have a solution, people still have the right to say "No" - it's only once people start saying "No" that we will start thinking about what the solution could be."

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    You could try using fire hoses, tear gas, and rubber bullets to get rid of these people. Police globally are too soft on these people. They need to be treated as terrorists as they are a threat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Can all the protest supporters keep the noise down please - I'm trying to count my money !

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Interesting to note that HSBC and Goldman were sponsors of St Paul's 300th anniversary. Coudl the Dean be paying lip service to occupation but full mass for banks? http://ht.ly/74Iy7

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

    lol. Amazing that with unemployment at it's peak and still growing, youth unemployment at it highest ever, hence many on jobseekers, that you would group them along with benefit scroungers! Like to see you lose your job and not sign up then!

    Your "Get a job" comment just highlights your arrogance, you have no idea what's going on!

    "Get back to work slave!"

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    By the way...the French Revolution happened the same way.. A massive economic crisis...follow by civil unrest ...the "99%" of the people got fed up with the 1% (1st and 2nd State) , which are the Governments and Bankers equivalents of today. History repeats itself...one way or another...

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I fully support the protesters long may they protest without hindrance. These are peaceful lawful protests. I wish they were in York so I could join them. When will corporate Britain realise that it needs to be fairer in its business dealings with normal people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    The Dean put his politics first and not the good of everyone. Get any God out of politics.People have a right to protest but it's all about themselves and their right to stop others.Stop their dole as they are stopping others from working.

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    I am sick of being labelled "communist" simply for being anti-capitalist. 1) I apologise for opposing a system where Western Countries can live out their blissful lives off the backs of oil and other resources exploited from third world countries. 2) You would think all you anti-protest commentators were livin in the era of Reagan and the "red fear", get a grip, we're humanist not "communist".

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    I'm not sure the banks downfalls were caused by lending too much money to 'ordinary' people.
    I thought the whole point was the numbers had gone far beyond that.
    Wasn't it the mess between themselves that was the root cause?
    They messed up,we bailed them out,then a whole lot of PR tosh about it actually being our fault started.
    Diversionary tactic? Couldn't be,could it?

    Still waiting for my cake!

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    Once again anti-capitalist hippie tramps are using the economic crisis and greivances with others as an excuse cause havoc themselves.

    We all know socialists hate British people, specifically Christians, can you imagine them protesting outside a Mosque instead, perhaps the Regent's Park Mosque?
    Nah, thought not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 183.

    The protesters have already achieved something. They've shown how the state currently puts the fears of the owners of Paternoster Square, who will not face up to a protest about the financial system, over those of the Church who will have to pick up the bill. Meanwhile the blame is attributed to the protesters. Another bail-out, and another buck passed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 182.

    Please leave these poor bankers alone youre upsetting them and by doing so also upsetting Mr Cameron and his associates. Please remember it's almost bonus time and you wouldn't like to confuse them by leaving out the odd million taking into consideration how tight the economy is and of course Christmas is ever nearing!!


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