Thinking Anglicans

St Paul's Cathedral and the protestors

Updated again Friday evening

Ed Thornton reports in the Church Times this morning: Crisis brings crowd to steps of St Paul’s
Update There has been a major update of this story, now headlined Protest means we must shut, says Dean of St Paul’s.

THE Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral appealed this week for cathedral life to “be allowed to operate as normally as possible”, after hundreds of activists, protesting against corporate greed and eco­nomic inequality, set up camp in St Paul’s Churchyard…

The Church Times also has editorial comment on the subject: Leader: Cold comfort for protesters.

The statements by the Dean and Chapter can be found here, and earlier here.

Friday afternoon update

Two further statements from the Dean of St Paul’s:

Statement from the Dean of St Paul’s (21 October)

Update Video of this statement here.

…Last night, I met with members of the Chapter to discuss some of these key issues. As the week has gone on, and in a statement we issued earlier this week, we intimated how difficult the situation was becoming.

As a result of that meeting, and reports received today from our independent Health, Safety and Fire officers, I have written an open letter to the protestors this afternoon advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul’s Cathedral until further notice. I have here copies of the letter clearly outlining the reasons we have had to take this dramatic course of action which I will ask my colleagues to distribute.

The Health, Safety and Fire officers have pointed out that access to and from the Cathedral is seriously limited. 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 themselves.

The decision to close St Paul’s Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times and I have asked the Registrar to implement emergency procedures whereby the building remains closed but fit for purpose until such a time that we can open safely. Our 200 staff and 100 volunteers are also being informed of this decision this afternoon.
I want to say two simple things at this point.

1)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.

2)That all of the Chapter are at one on this and recognise the complexities of the issues facing us at this time…

Open Letter from the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral

…With a heavy heart I have to tell you that St Paul’s Cathedral has to be closed today until further notice, because of the legal requirements placed upon us by fire, health and safety issues. I know you will appreciate that in taking on the burden of responsibility for the care and well being of people entering our building, we must also be able to ensure everyone’s safety and, according to those who are expert in this regard, we cannot do so at the moment. I wanted to inform you of this necessary decision before I announced it to the Press.

I am therefore appealing to you directly to recognise that a great deal had been achieved by your presence here outside St Paul’s but that, in order that we might re-open the Cathedral as speedily as possible, we ask you to withdraw peacefully. We are concerned about public safety in terms of evacuation and fire hazards and the consequent knock-on effects which this has with regards to visitors…

Guardian Peter Walker and Riazat Butt

Occupy London Stock Exchange protesters asked to leave by cathedral officials

Occupy London Stock Exchange camp refuses to leave despite cathedral plea

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Pat O'NeillMarkBrunsonJerry HannonErika BakerFather Ron Smith Recent comment authors
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rj
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rj

Morally speaking, this looks like a bit of an own-goal for the Cathedral and indeed for the church. One can see that the Cathedral probably had no choice in the matter, and I do think their professed reasons are sincere. Nobody could ever fault the Church of England for being insufficiently prudent. Still, it’s not a stunning public display of courage, all things considered.

Andrew
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Andrew

At least here in the US, there are changes needed to the financial and tax regulations that would prevent another recession of this magnitude. Among them are separation of merchant from deposit banks (Glass Steagall), a sharply progressive income tax for those earning over one million dollars per year, and requiring hedge fund managers to pay ordinary income tax. There are many other ideas floating around, including elimination of farm and tobacco subsidies. If the “Occupy” demonstrators would start making concrete suggestions of this type, they would attract a large number of thoughtful people and might make a real difference.… Read more »

Counterlight
Guest

It seems to me that if Mayor Bloomberg of New York (definitely part of the 1%) with his phalanxes of club-wielding cops can come to an agreement with the protesters in Liberty Plaza, then something could be worked out between the cathedral, the protesters, and the City. The whole reason they are there is because the cops won’t allow them anywhere near the Stock Exchange. The police must defend that center of the international financial industry against … against… well, I’m not sure, shame and embarrassment perhaps. Kudos to the cathedral and the dean for allowing the protesters to camp… Read more »

JCF
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JCF

Oh come on, Andrew, Blaming the Victim much? And it’s the Occupiers who have CREATED the space for (serious!) discussion for reforms like those you list in your first paragraph. [When just a few weeks ago, discussion was limited to “Austerity? Or MORE Austerity? (for those who can LEAST afford it—those tax cuts for the wealthiest won’t pay for themselves!)”]

Rosemary Hannah
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Rosemary Hannah

Thirty years ago we were discussing the fact that endless ‘economic growth’ was for many reasons unlikely to be possible, and how the world should be handled to provide good lives without it. The UK news media have (rightly) been discussion the reorganisation of banks since the fall of Lehman Brothers. Farms subsidies in Europe have been falling for decades, and now only exist in the form of subsidy for environmental protection. I know many many professionals who have done a bit to support the Occupy movement. What the movement wants is something far, far more radical than reform of… Read more »

Richard Ashby
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Richard Ashby

I find it very difficult to believe that the cathedral and the protesters can’t find a way to co-exist. Closing the cathedral seems to me to be an extreme reaction to what must be a manageable problem.

John Bowles
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John Bowles

These time-wasting bores should be forcibly removed from St Paul’s by the police. Why choose the fore-court any way? The new development to the north of the cathedral would have been a better place, assuming that the protest was necessary at all. But St Paul’s spokesmen have done few favours of the Church of England,least of all the Chancellor. In voice, sentiment and appearance he demonstrates the declasse mediocrity that now pervades the national Church.

Stephen C
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Stephen C

It seems to me that both the protesters and the dean etc. at St. Paul’s would rather the protest could be closer to the stock exchange.

The question is how to achieve that?

Counterlight
Guest

“These time-wasting bores should be forcibly removed from St Paul’s by the police.”

I believe Deng Xiaoping used this tactic once in 1989.

Jeremy
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Jeremy

I’ve clicked on a number of the links and I still don’t understand why St. Paul’s shut down. Too much double-talk and dancing around the issues. Is there any good reason for the cathedral to close, other than an attempt to convince protesters to leave? If that was the real point, it’s probably not going to work. Furthermore, to anyone who knows the west front of the cathedral, there’s usually a crowd sitting on the steps anyway. One suspects that St. Paul’s has a massive infrastructure built up to profit from tourism — gift shop, cafe, etc. — and that… Read more »

Lapinbizarre
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Lapinbizarre

“….time-wasting bores.” Demonstrators, or Chapter?

Counterlight
Guest

I wonder if the canons of St. Paul’s would really consider something like this to be a desirable end to the protests:

http://youtu.be/JrRZBVqioeU

Jon Hale
Guest
Jon Hale

I was planning to meet clergy colleagues on the steps of St.Paul’s on Friday so maybe I should reserve judgement until then, but I thought a cathedral was supposed to be the kind of place that attracted crowds and those seeking compassion and justice …..

rjb
Guest
rjb

Andrew says that “the Church has always been in favor of the “ninety-nine percent” and still is.” I don’t doubt that at its best the church has always attempted to take the side of the oppressed and dowtrodden (and indeed of the merely ordinary), but even the most charitable commentator would have to admit that it has not always succedded in showing this to its best advantage. From the comments I’ve seen on Twitter and elsewhere, this is largely seen as an act of the Established Church acting in the interests of the establishment. The irony, of course, is that… Read more »

Father David
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Father David

Doesn’t St. Paul’s have a door round the side of the building to allow worshippers access in order to offer worship? Seems to me to be a massive over reaction to close down the cathedral. It reminds me of the swine-flu panic when for month after month worshippers were denied the chalice. It took Basildon Council ten years to remove by force the residents of Dale Farm – I wonder if the Dean of St. Paul’s is dug in for the long haul? If I were the Dean of Westminster Abbey I’d begin to make contingency plans to host next… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

Perhaps the members of the Stock Exchange should offer to reimburse St.Paul’s Cathedral for the loss of revenue sustained by the necessity for protest!
That could be a good move that might help the financial sector to regain some respectability.

rjb
Guest
rjb

“Affectation has many faces.”

Indeed it does. Exaggeratedly world-weary hyper-cynicism being not the least popular of them.

Richard Ashby
Guest
Richard Ashby

I suppose one ought to start feeling sorry for the Cathedral authorities, they can’t win now what ever they do. But I still don’t understand why some accomodation can’t be reached with the protesters about health and safety issues and the concerns of the fire brigade to ensure safe access. Any attempt to clear the site is going to be a PR disaster for the Cathedral.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/oct/23/st-pauls-occupy-london-protest

Rosemary Hannah
Guest
Rosemary Hannah

Quite simply, the Cathedral have forgotten who they are supposed to be following.

Counterlight
Guest

Dear Mr Bowles,

The word I’m thinking of for the prospective use of police armed with clubs and teargas on unarmed peaceful protesters outside a house of God is a Yiddish word, shanda.

Maybe Marx was right all along. The priest really is the landlord’s best friend.

Matt
Guest
Matt

My take on this is that Giles Fraser let his cuddly radicalism run away with himself and marched his troops up the hill without working out how he was going to march them down again, and the Dean and Chapter are now engaged in recovering from the hole he’s dropped them in. He should have time limited it, and thought about what would happen if the small camp tents he supported suddenly multiplied 10 fold. Instead, the Cathedral has instantly transformed from sympathetic supports to lying lackeys of the bankers because the protestors seem to have no concept anywhere between… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

“It’s a policing problem. Treat it as such.”

Gee, somehow I can imagine the chief priests and Pharisees saying exactly the same thing about Jesus.

Matt
Guest
Matt

>”It’s a policing problem. Treat it as such.”

>Gee, somehow I can imagine the chief priests and Pharisees saying exactly the same thing about Jesus.

No reply to the points made there, Pat.

Do you have anything to say?

Matt

Matt
Guest
Matt

@Pat

If you want to get a measure on the hypocrisy of this “we will camp out in solidarity” PR stunt, consider that IR photos have shown 90% of the tents not to be occupied at night.

I call it a policing problem because that is exactly what it is – an attempt to get attention through dominating the media, with no coherent message behind it.

This is just the next bit of fuel for the bandwagon.

Let’s face it down so that the other 99% of us can get on and fix the country.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Matt, what is wrong with wanting to get attention? In a world in which financial and economic processes are so complicated and interwoven that not even the bankers themselves seem to understand them all and politicians seem to be powerless to do more than tinker at the edges, why would the people from Occupy be able to present polished economic manifestos? No, it’s quite simple. People are experiencing in their own lives and in those around them that they struggle more than ever and they don’t understand why that should be so when those supposedly in charge of our economy… Read more »

Father Ron Smith
Guest

So, Erica. You think that anarchy will fix the problems? Even Parliament cannot just make a resolution that will be an instant fix. I have personal memories of pre and post-war England, where some of us had little to eat, but we did not mutiny.
Self-interest is one of the enemies of community – whether from the monetarists or the urban masses.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

Ron, anarchy? Munity? Are we following the same protests? You know, I’m always amazed at people’s responses. A few months back we had violent riots and looting in Britain and a lot of people commented on how, while they could not be condoned, they had to be understood because of the hopeless world so many of the rioters live in. And now we have a huge world wide movement of calm and friendly people protesting against the same things and suddenly there’s a huge amount of contempt for them, their motives, their methods and their message. What, precisely, would you… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Matt: I thought comparing your summation to the position of the chief priests and Pharisees was all the reply that was needed. As for “coherent message”, I think “things are damned messed up and we want something done about it,” is pretty coherent. These are, for the most part, ordinary citizens involved in this protest–it’s not their job to propose solutions; they are there to point out the problem. If I go to the doctor with a pain in my side, it’s not up to me to propose an appendectomy. If I go to the local authorities about a pothole… Read more »

Jerry Hannon
Guest
Jerry Hannon

I believe that the greatest internal threat to peace and security comes from those who worship at the altar of Ayn Rand, and who would say to anyone in need “go fix your own problems, go scrounge around for your own food, go get money from someone else to educate your children, go live under a railroad trestle if your haven’t got the rent money.” We cannot survive as a society if the impoverished and the barely-making-it keep expanding and the super rich keep accumulating greater and greater percentages of the national wealth. My country, the US, is heading in… Read more »

MarkBrunson
Guest

Jerry, the absolute worst part of those Randians is that they *do absolutely none of that*! They live off of everybody else, buying and selling what others produce, driving roads and using services paid for by others and maintained by others, then complain when told they owe something back out of what they’ve made from others’ work and goodwill. If they practiced their embittered prophetess’ preaching, they’d be no problem because they’d be completely separated out from us and too busy struggling to survive to be a burden to the rest of us by their selfishness. But, then, I’m told… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

“…go live under a railroad trestle if your haven’t got the rent money.”

I am reminded of the following:

“The law in its majesty forbids the rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges.” – Anatole France.