Protesters stay put in London’s financial district for a second day, as the Occupy Wall Street movement ripples across the globe attracting high profile supporters.
Thousands descended on the area around the Stock Exchange on Saturday in a bid to replicate the huge demonstrations taking place in New York.
As night fell protesters had pitched tents at the foot of the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral after police cordoned off Paternoster Square, where the Stock Exchange is located.
Church services at St Paul’s took place today despite the continued presence of the protesters, whose makeshift camp was not opposed by the reverend.
Ben Doran, 21, a music student from the Midlands, said: “The reverend came out this morning and asked the police to leave the steps of the cathedral and said he didn’t mind protesters being here, that he supported the democratic right to protest.”
Though largely peaceful, five arrests were made yesterday – three for assault on police and two for public order offences.
A spokesman for the protesters said the demonstration was to “challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled our economy”.
We’re going to stay until the morning and the next day and the day after – as long as it takes until the Government hears our voice and says they are going to change things. Spyros Van Leemnen, Occupy LSE supporter
“This occupation and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what’s happening all across America and especially Wall Street,” he added.
Spyro Van Leemnen, a supporter of Occupy London Stock Exchange, was among those camping outside St Paul’s.
The 27-year-old, originally from Greece, said: “There are about 100 tents here – in the churchyard, on the steps, and in between St Paul’s and Paternoster Square. There are still a lot of police here but it’s all very peaceful.”
He added: “We’re going to stay until the morning and the next day and the day after – as long as it takes until the Government hears our voice and says they are going to change things.”
Well-known activists including Julian Assange and Peter Tatchell were among the protesters in London yesterday.
Mr Assange, creator of the WikiLeaks website, addressed the crowds on the steps of St Paul’s.
A spokeswoman for the protesters said he had been challenged by police for wearing a mask as he walked to the protest.
She said: “As I understand it, Julian initially refused to take the mask off. Police detained him for 15 minutes before letting him go.
“He then gave a speech in which he talked about WikiLeaks, police oppression and the current economic situation.”
Activists carried banners with slogans such as “We are the 99%” and “Bankers got a bailout, we got sold out”.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the protest had been “largely calm and orderly”, but urged protesters to leave the area around the cathedral.
However, Occupy London Stock Exchange supporter Anna Jones claimed “a disproportionate amount of force” was used by police against protesters outside St Paul’s.
She said: “We have seen people, kettled, grabbed and thrown off the steps forcefully by the police. This was entirely unnecessary. None came here to have a fight with the police.”
We have seen people, kettled, grabbed and thrown off the steps forcefully by the police. This was entirely unnecessary. Anna Jones, Occupy LSE supporter
Earlier, police began removing protesters from the cathedral steps, leading to physical confrontations, and officers expressed concerns about the cathedral’s pillars being damaged by people sitting on its steps.
A Met spokesman said a “containment” was carried out in the churchyard “prevent a breach of the peace”.
Protests also took place on the streets of Edinburgh and Dublin, which passed off peacefully.
More than 100 demonstrators turned out to protest in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, while hundreds also took to the streets of Dublin.
Protesters gathered across Europe and the US, and in Australia, New Zealand and Japan yesterday.
In the US, the number of protesters swelled to 5,000 in New York – where the movement began – and took to the streets of Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Toronto in Canada.
While largely peaceful, Rome however was rocked by violence (pictured) as police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters who turned the demonstration against corporate greed into a riot, smashing shop and bank windows, torching cars and hurling bottles.
Several police officers and protesters were injured, including one man trying to stop protesters from throwing bottles.