The results so far of the protest of Occupy London have proved to be entirely negative and disastrous for St. Pauls Cathedral. First Canon Chancellor Giles Fraser resigned over the protest, and now the Dean, the Rt. Rev. Graeme Knowles has resigned. It has also been reported in several newspapers that businesses around the cathedral have suffered an 80-90% drop in business.
The London Standard reported today: “Lawyers for the City of London Corporation served a legal notice on the “Occupy London” demonstration asking them to “clear tents and equipment.
If the protesters do not comply with the order, the local authority will seek a High Court injunction to move them from outside the cathedral by force if necessary. A source told the Standard: “The clock starts ticking today.” The move marks an escalation in the 16-day stand-off.
Other members of the St Paul’s Chapter – the seven-man body that governs the Cathedral – are said to be considering their positions. Canon Mark Oakley was against going to court. He said: “I couldn’t vote for any course of action that might lead at some point to violent behaviour.”
Demonstrators currently have 224 tents pitched outside the cathedral. The City of London Corporation believes the camp on Church Yard, an ancient thoroughfare which runs along the north side of the 300-year-old Cathedral, is blocking access to Ludgate Hill, New Change and Paternoster Square.
One of the local authority’s lawyers will hand protesters a Highways Notice this afternoon. The source added: “We are absolutely not against the right to protest, we are against the tents and equipment squeezing the life out of the Square Mile.”
Occupy London said it was disappointed to learn of the legal notice and would discuss it with their lawyers. Spokesman Ronan McNern said: “The camp is a just cause and expensive legal or court action could be avoided if the Church and the City of London Corporation engaged in meaningful, transparent dialogue. We are not causing any harm.”
The protesters may not feel they are causing any harm, but that is not view of the many small businesses that are suffering around the Cathedral. It is ridiculous to expect to be allowed to pitch a tent wherever you fancy, and entirely unnecessary. As the lawyers of the local authority have said, nobody is preventing the protesters from demonstrating, but camping out is a totally different matter.
On SKY today, a protester said they were appealing to the Church to step up and play their part by intervening against the unfairness of the system. A journalist pointed out that the Church was already doing that, but the protestors have impeded the release of a report. The protesters seem to blithely ignore the current economic crisis in their demands for change. It is very very strange.