7 Dec 2011

No reason to ‘pack up camp’ say St Paul’s protesters

Occupy London protesters say issues remain unresolved despite a meeting with Hector Sants, the head of the Financial Services Authority, which he described as “fruitful”. Roz Upton reports.

FSA boss Hector Sants leaving meeting with Occupy London (Reuters)

As he left the meeting, Mr Sants said: “We were talking about the role the FSA plays in overseeing the financial system in the UK. How we are already going about trying to achieve significant change and I was listening carefully to those areas where they would like to see further change.”

Mr Sants joined 10 protesters as well as Ken Costa, former chairman of Lazard International and the Bishop of London in a Bedouin tent in the grounds of St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace in the City of London. It was the first event held by London Connection, an initiative set up last month by the Bishop of London, Rt Reverend Dr Richard Chartres, with the aim of reconnecting finance and ethics.

Leaving the meeting, Mr Costa said he thought there will be changes: “We’re looking at a number of initiatives and trying to establish the links between the informal sector, as I would call the meeting we had tonight, and the more formal establishment.” He added: “They are very well informed and have some important questions they want answered.”

Most of the protesters agreed tonight’s meeting went well, Mark Weaver said: “It’s a long road to a just world. Many topics came up, from fractional reserve banking to hedge funds to the very ethics that drive banking. I got the impression a lot of listening was going on.”

Richard Paton, a fellow protester, said Hector Sants, “was suggesting that we get involved in the formal political process. Which is all well and good, but the reason that tents are popping up is because that process has failed. He certainly hasn’t given us any cause to go and pack up the camp. The issues are still there. ”

The Occupy movement have been protesting outside St Paul’s since October 15. They pitched their tents in front of the cathedral after police refused to let them do so in nearby Paternoster Square, home of the London Stock Exchange.

Ronan McNern of Occupy London said tonight’s meeting was about “initiating dialogue,” with the City and that the issue would not be solved in one 60 minute meeting.

The protesters intend to remain camped outside St Paul’s. They face an eviction hearing at the High Court on December 19. The Corporation of London served enforcement notices on the Occupy camp during last Wednesday’s strike. Protesters will have 48 hours to comply with the notice which would come into effect on December 30, unless they appeal. On Wednesday, Occupy London revealed the City of London Corporation had handed them a witness statement from the registrar of St Paul’s, Nicolas Cottam which details the effect the protest camp is having on the cathedral.

The cathedral’s handling of the protesters has led to the resignations of three of its clergy members, including the Dean, The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles. In October, the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams entered the debate saying that the urgent issues raised by the protestors needed to be properly addressed.

Secret concert

Last night, Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and 3D of Massive Attack played a DJ set to around 200 Occupy London activists. The musicians put on the secret gig in the basement of an abandoned building owned by UBS in Hackney, East London. It’s reported they thanked the protesters for their demonstration adding that ordinary people should not be paying for the economic crisis.