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 221.

    Closing down a peaceful if persistent protest, even by stealth or contrived litigation, will simply lead to the protesters, their sympathisers and the vast numbers of UK citizens whose opinions are never represented in Westminster - much less in the City of London - to assume that passive, peaceful protest is ineffective and that only direct action can take back our country from it's enemies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Full statement by OccupyLSX http://occupylsx.org/

    Now, if the owners of Paternoster Square opened it up, they would save the cathedral a lot of hassle...

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Do me a favour - read my comments *slowly* this time.
    I was not at all tarnishing all claimants - rich of you to tell me "I do not know whats going on"... 93 - was that when you were born, by chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    These are not anti-capitalist hippie tramps as you so insultingly call them. Also this is not about abusing christians or anyother religion, it is about pointing out the greed of those in financial, utilities sectors who get massive bonuses from our money and labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Once again the British people are side-tracked from the main issue. It's not about St. Paul's - closed or otherwise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    Close St Pauls why?

    There are plenty of entrances and exits, the protestors are not covering the whole area wall to wall and I am sure would willingly co-operate by leaving adequate pathways through.

    If it smells like a political act, looks like a political act then it probably is a political act to close the cathedral, then try and blame the protestors for it.

    Nice try?

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    it annoys me that so many people are not getting behind these protesters for standing up for what they think is right, in the 70s and 80s many people felt the need to protest and did, and now these very same people are complaining about it, perhaps open your eyes and see that change is needed, capitalism has become corrupt and it should not go on like this for future generations

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    The arguments for the kind of capitalism we are currently suffering are very naive.
    It's the structure we have, where banks and big businesses can control 99% of the money that is simply wrong - how can someone argue that it's great that 50 Americans control 99% of US money 50 million Americans can't even afford health care insurance and the brainwashed hyacinth buckets think it's okay?

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    I will knock the church down and build another within a day

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    It's a shame that these people who are demonstrating will not be heard, but it's not because of who they are, it's simply because historically, these things go nowhere. Ordinary people should occupy their own towns on Sunday and every Sunday if they really want to be heard.


  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    @BBC Moderator.. Is encouraging the use of Water Canon not in breach of your house rules (on two counts possibly). Not sure they are legal in mainland UK and encouraging their use certainly would be covered by "activities which could endanger the safety or well-being of others"

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    "And being able to write your comment on a public forum somewhat negates your statement and is hilarious"

    Point taken, although a mate of mine posts from his job in Kazakhstan.
    I'm not there at the mo, but you're not to know that, are you?

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    It seems to me that the Dean of the Cathedral has been naive and that (being wise in retrospect) the Cathedral may have become the next port of call for professional protesters who had been based at Dale Farm.
    This has now turned into occupy St. Paul's and I would hope these people move on and find something worthwhile to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    I've been there for part of the occupation. There is a wide range of people there, - not just anti-capitalists. From day 1 the protesters have been doing their best to not inconvenience those around - people have still been able to go to the local shops, go to work, enter and exit the cathedral. Protesters have arranged meetings around church services so as not to disturb them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    Anti-capitalist demonstrators have forced the closure of St Paul's which is very ironic as St Paul's charge every visitor £16 for entry! Capitalism?

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    I am not actually sure what their demands are and what this protest is supposed to achieve. If they are anti all capitalism how on earth would that work? Presumably they are also against home ownership and small company ownership? There is a debate to be had about elements of capitalism which are not working but socialism has its failings too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 205.

    Some people are either so self-obsessed or ignorant of current directions it beggars belief.

    92, "Corporations drive this planet forwards". To what end? On current trends we will be driven forward to another 11th Century.

    90. Yes no one should protest if it upsets your plans. Lets all sit at home and get trampled on by the powers that be.

    Its only takes people like this to give us no chance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 204.

    I hate to mention plurality, but every single one of the Editors picks is anti-Occupy London I'm not a member of this group but having read their statement I have yet to understand what health and safety officials are telling the church they have to leave (src: http://occupylondon.org.uk/). It's unfounded actions like the dean is taking that leads to the myths of Health 'n safety.

  • rate this

    Comment number 203.

    Are the protestors not ashamed that they've closed down a site with no relevance to their cause? The Dean was too kind to them and they've abused their right to protest.

    I find the occupation of St. Paul's by the Occupy London Stock Exchange an ironic symbol of how unrepresentative the "99%" are. If the prostesters had any decency they would occupy areas relevant to their cause, or go home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    I'm a firm believer in peaceful protest being the most effective way for masses of people to get their point across. It worked in America during the Civil Rights Movement and it worked to gain India it's idenpendence from the UK. Democracy is rooted in a tradition of protest and I think the protesters should be applauded for their use of non-violence to convey their message. Far cry from the riots


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