October 22, 2011

Is it time the #OccupyLSX protest moved on?

Filed under: Uncategorized — madaxeman @ 10:27 am

Time to move on?

St. Paul’s Cathedral have now asked the @OccupyLSX protest to leave their current site just outside the cathedral itself, and it seems that the protesters have now taken a vote and decided to stay despite the request from the cathedral itself…

I’ve been trying to decide what I think about that… As anyone who knows me will attest, I support the right to peacefully protest. I actually think it is to be encouraged, it forces people to give some thought to the issues that affect us all, and is a completely separate concept to the too often seen spectacle of a band of unwashed tossers rioting in the streets. Noel Coward lads – that’s where it’s at…

Now, the more conventional side of my personality says that the protesters have clearly outstayed their welcome, and so should really move on. These things are rarely as simple as they first appear though, so let’s look into what the actual problem is… Let’s consider the statement from the Dean of St. Paul’s here

The Dean invites us to consider the “practical and safety issues” raised – presumably raised by the entirely peaceful protesters, with the underlying “good atmosphere generally between Cathedral staff and those dwelling in the tents around St Paul’s“. So we’re not exactly talking about rampaging gangs of protesters knocking little old ladies to the ground – it seems reasonable to conclude even from the Dean’s statement that the protesters are being entirely peaceable and reasonable in their conduct…

However, it seems that having spoken with their “independent Health, Safety and Fire Officers”, the cathedral has “no lawful alternative but to close St Paul’s Cathedral until further notice.“. Really? Maybe the protesters should immediately leg it over to Scotland Yard instead! The immense power in their hands lol… Being fair to the Dean, he does make a valid point about the fuels and combustible materials that the protest has brought in it’s midst – and I (sincerely) accept that the stone building is actually not invulnerable to fire. I have my reservations about whether a protester’s cooking stove is truly likely to explode in so dramatic a fashion as to ignite the roof timbers, but after all this is Health and Safety land, and one can’t be too careful…

I would like to call out the Dean on one of his “simple things”…

“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. “

“But today is about our ability, practically, to carry on our mission with free and open access to this public space and treasured place and I hope that the protestors will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully.”

I’m told that a ticket to visit the Cathedral for an adult costs £14.50.

It is hard, in the light of that, to understand how the Dean feels he has any a claim of “free and open access”. Could a homeless person with no resources simply walk in off the street and wander through the supposed House of God in quiet contemplation? How would Christ feel about the deliberate exclusion of the disadvantaged from his church?

I’m afraid I look on a cathedral with a £14.50 admission fee and 200 staff as being more of a business than a place of worship, so appeals to my conscience on that score are not going to hold much sway… The Cathedral Restaurant with it’s sparkling wines, cucumber sandwiches and clotted cream teas didn’t help either…

However, there are costs to the continuing protest, and not only financial ones… I’m told that the cathedral was supposed to be hosting a wedding service today for example, which has now had to be cancelled in the light of events. Clearly that will involve a lot of distress to a couple on what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of their lives, as well as their invited guests. Whilst it’s true that anyone having a wedding at St. Paul’s is hardly likely to be “as poor as a church mouse”, I don’t think the size of their bank balance has any relevance to whether the disruption is justified….

More importantly, one also hopes that the church involves itself in a number of activities to help those less fortunate in it’s surroundings (although I could find no reference to any such activities on their website…). Any disruption to this sort of activity could have very serious consequences, far more serious than any re-arranged wedding…

All in all then, I personally think that the protesters should move on, and reform the protest in a different location. I also think the church should be ashamed of themselves.

It will interesting to see how things turn out…



  1. By free access he means unhindered i.e. not having tents in the way. He is hardly likely to claim entrance costs nothing when it actually costs £14.50!

    80% of the costs of running St Paul’s is met by the entrance ticket price so it wont take long to cause a serious funding problem if it closes.

    Personally i find the the idea of moving the site of a protest because it is inconvenient hilarious. Who on earth would pick to protest at a site that inconveniences no-one?

    Long may they stay there – and on today’s question time phone in on Radio 4 nobody who had actually attended the site saw wires, gas cannisters or any health and safety issues……

    Comment by Spartacus — October 22, 2011 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

  2. HI Spartacus,

    I haven’t yet caught the Any Questions / Answers programs this weekend, so I guess I’ll be taking my laptop to bed and giving the ol’ IPlayer a dusting off…

    I understand the distinction you are making in terms of free as in liberty and free as in beer – but I don’t think either applies. My example of a homeless person really shows why – surely a poor homeless person would be looked upon with favour were Jesus to have any say in things? I don’t remember there being any mention of a tariff of charges in the Bible…

    As for moving the protest, I merely point out that this was never supposed to be a protest about the church – and if the protesters allow this to be defined as Occupy vs St. Paul’s, then the real aims of the protest are lost. In days gone by such protesters might have expected to find a natural ally in the church, but it seems those days are behind us…

    Whilst some protests are indeed designed to inconvenience people, are Occupy really intending to target the church / churchgoers?

    Comment by madaxeman — October 22, 2011 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  3. Setting aside the original Stock Exchange goals of the protest, I’m nonetheless amazed how little it takes to shut down St Paul’s Cathedral – I read someone count 97 small tents, and he counted them FROM the steps of St Paul’s entranceway, to which he had easy unimpeded access unaffected at all by the tents – to be clear, their decision to shut the place on ‘health and safety’ grounds looks to be fundamentally spurious. Today the chancellor of the cathedral is rumoured to be about to resign ( The Church of England has 42 cathedrals, so extrapolating from the London result, assuming they’re all equally as wussy, suggests it might be possible to shut down every cathedral in every city and have every cathedral chancellor resign for the sake of a distributed weekend camping trip of less than 4200 tents – only 3 or 4% of the total that attended, say, Glastonbury. Since it’s a ludicrously medieval anachronism that our secular society still has a parasitic state-sanctioned sky wizard church established in the heart of our legislative upper house, I’d be all in favour!

    Comment by Bob — October 27, 2011 @ 8:32 am | Reply

    • First of all, my apology for the delay in responding… Sorry about that – been bust, got side-tracked, and only now as I laze on my sofa of a Sunday morning do I remember I had a comment to address…

      The whole business of St. Paul’s is looking decidedly suspect, and we are now looking at a situation where the protesters might well be moved (next year probably) by force, as the church and City of London are pursuing eviction proceedings… It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the church just how much worse than the current one (which is already pretty appalling) their position will be once they have actively moved people away protesting about corporate greed and social injustice away from their door…

      I’m going out this morning, and I am thinking about calling around to my local C of E and having a discussion with the vicar on my way. Perhaps if more people do this, we might get either the church to realise where it’s loyalties ought to lie, or alternatively get people to see the both the irrelevance and the insincerity of the church…

      Comment by madaxeman — October 30, 2011 @ 9:45 am | Reply

  4. I’m not much distracted by worrying who or what the church and its staff choose to side with, St Paul’s and other cathedrals are great architecture and history but they’re tourist businesses rather than bona fide centres of worship, I’d never propose knocking them down but I’d happily repossess the lot of them from the CofE and hand them over to English Heritage or National Trust to conserve and run as attractions. It’s nice that the CofE’s deans and canons have opinions about #Occupy, and some of them sound like nice well-meaning chaps, but they’re utterly irrelevant and to be honest if they’re going to have internal squabbles about what Jesus might have done, it all serves to make them look even weaker and more pointless than ever.

    Comment by Bob — October 31, 2011 @ 9:49 am | Reply

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