In their stand against mammon, protesters occupying St Paul’s churchyard to vent anger at reckless bankers found heartwarming support emanating from the house of God.
Far from requesting that the 300-strong crowd be removed from the cathedral steps on Sunday , the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, canon chancellor of St Paul’s, requested that the police themselves move on as the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest entered its second day.
A line of officers had taken up position at the top of the steps to “protect” the building. “Which was very good of them,” explained the canon. But then he had asked them if they would leave, “because I didn’t feel that it needed that sort of protection”.
And so those attending Sunday mass found themselves picking a path through the makeshift camp of around 100 tents erected at the foot of the cathedral’s steps after Saturday’s global day of action inspired by the US’s Occupy Wall Street movement.
With the sermon of the day appropriately including a gospel reading about “God and money”, the regular congregation was joined by some of the protesters. The canon had warned them the cathedral bells were “really loud”, so it was an early start to their first full day of occupation.
An attempt on Saturday to set up camp outside the London Stock Exchange in nearby privately-owned Paternoster Square had been thwarted by police. But all the indications on Sunday were that a hard core of dedicated protesters were digging in for the long haul at St Paul’s.
A field kitchen was being erected, offering basics donated by wellwishers. A first aid point was set up in front of a poster renaming the area as Tahrir Square. A media area, powered by a generator, was aiming to stream activities from the camp live on to the internet. A line of seven portable toilets had also been installed. “Pick up your litter” was one of the continual announcements over the camp’s megaphone.
A spokesman said the purpose of the occupation was “to challenge the bankers and the financial institutions which recklessly gambled with the economy. This and 20 other occupations all around the UK have been directly inspired by what’s happening all across America and especially in Wall Street.”