24 Oct 2011

St Paul’s protesters pledge to stay for months

Anti-capitalist protesters resist calls to leave St Paul’s Cathedral and vow to stay until they see results – even until Christmas.

St Paul's protesters pledge to stay for months (reuters)

A second site has been set up at Finsbury Square in Islington to ease numbers at St Paul’s, but activists pledged to remain at the cathedral grounds indefinitely.

St Paul’s had asked protesters to leave because of health and safety concerns – despite some clergy members coming out in support of their cause.

The cathedral was forced to close when the protest camp remained, and had to turn away thousands of Sunday worshippers at an estimated cost of £20,000.

Members of the protest group UK Uncut are joining the Occupy London activists at St Paul’s today before marching to the head office of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Whitehall. They plan to demand the resignation of HMRC Deputy Chief Executive Dave Hartnett, accusing him of allowing Vodafone and Goldman Sachs to avoid making tax payments.

Businesses suffering

A cathedral spokesman said that surrounding businesses were also suffering from reduced profits because of the activists.

“A lot of independent traders are being affected and that whole part of London is not easily accessible,” he said. “This is no longer just about St Paul’s and it is not something we can deal with on our own.”

St Paul’s already has advent services planned in the run-up to Christmas, including an All Saints’ Day service on 1 November. Asked whether Christmas programmes might have to be cancelled, the spokesman said: “It isn’t impossible that that will be the case.”

This is the first time that St Paul’s Cathedral has shut its doors since the Second World War.

Prepared to stay until Christmas

An 18-year-old civil servant named Sean said he had taken a week off work to join the protest and was prepared to stay at the cathedral until Christmas day and beyond.

“We have the food and power to stay on and we are abiding by hygiene standards,” he said. “It would have been great to have kept them [the cathedral] onside. We are not against the church.”

The number of visitors to the cathedral usually rises over the half-term school holiday, and a group of supporters from Cambridge called on parents across the country to bring their children to see the protest camp during half-term this week.