22 Oct 2011

St Paul’s protesters set up second camp

The London landmark stays shut as anti-capitalist protests continue in nearby Finsbury Square.

St Paul's

Anti-capitalist protesters who forced St Paul’s Cathedral to close its doors have set up a second camp on a nearby square.

Some 30 tents have popped up on Finsbury Square in Islington, less than a mile from the London landmark, with an estimated 300 people moving on to the new site.

Organisers insisted those based at St Paul’s would hold their ground and would not be moving to the new site despite repeated requests to leave.

Hundreds attended a day of demonstrations outside St Paul’s Cathedral on Saturday after forcing the London landmark to close its doors to visitors.

The decision to shut the monument came after activists who have occupied a makeshift campsite outside the main entrance since last Saturday, refused to comply with requests to leave the area.

The Dean of St Paul’s, the Rev Graeme Knowles, said he had been forced to close St Paul’s for the first time since the Second World War after independent health and safety and fire officers identified unknown quantities of flammable liquids, along with smoking and drinking in tented areas.

He also cited public health issues such as sanitation and food hygiene.

Rev Knowles said: “The decision to close St Paul’s Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times.

“We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances.

“I hope that the protesters will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully.”

The Occupy London Stock Exchange group – the body behind the demonstration – has insisted it is co-operating with fire authorities and has sought clarification of the health and safety issues raised.

The group estimated that hundreds would swell the camp on Saturday for a series of talks and demonstrations, potentially taking the number of demonstrators up to 2,000.

But Natasha Ighodaro and fiance Nick Cunningham, went ahead with their white wedding inside the cathedral despite the tents and banners outside.

Rather than using the cathedral’s grand entrance, University of York graduate Miss Ighodaro, an account manager for a PR company, slipped in through a side door.

A spokesman for St Paul’s said: “The wedding has been planned for months and so it will go ahead as normal. They have gone for quite a private wedding. There are less than 100 guests, that’s why it can go ahead.”

The cathedral – which costs £20,000 per day to run – is one of London’s best loved tourist attractions and draws between 2,000 and 3,000 worshippers each Sunday.