Only one in 10 St Paul’s protesters stays overnight

Just one in 10 of the tents at the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp which has closed St Paul’s Cathedral are occupied at night, it can be revealed.

Richard Alleyne

10:00PM BST 24 Oct 2011

The camp forced St Paul’s to close for the first time since the Blitz and is costing local businesses thousands of pounds a day.

But most of the protesters are heading home to sleep in their own beds at night.

Infra red images taken by a police helicopter during the early hours show that only around 20 of the 200 tents on the encampment actually have people staying in them. The Daily Telegraph has shot its own video of the St Paul’s camp using thermal imaging equipment which appears to confirm these claims. The protesters are aware of the vacancies and allocate empty tents to newcomers and anyone staying for the day.

On Monday the revelation was described as a “charade” and pressure was growing on the church and other authorities to evict the camp. “It is like a phantom camp – a big charade,” said Matthew Richardson, a Corporation of London councillor, who is calling for action to be taken. “It just shows that most of the people don’t have the courage of their convictions and are here just to make trouble and leaving your tent here overnight is a good way to do that.”

Mr Richardson said it does not bear contemplating that services at St Paul’s could be disrupted through Remembrance Sunday and all the way up to Christmas. “If you cannot commemorate the people who died for your right to protest then it is awful and having no services at Christmas would be even worse,” he said. He said that the Corporation of London was ready to proceed but that St Paul’s, which is losing £20,000-a-day, was holding up any action. “It is just a mess,” he said. “My understanding is that the church are the ones that are holding up the process. It is frustrating but they are just muddling through the best they can. “The church has to make a decision and the sooner, the better.” Mr Richardson said an emergency meeting of the corporation was being held on Thursday to deal with the occupation.

A sign on one of the tents said: “All day, all week, we’ll sleep on London’s freezing streets. Solidarity.”

The City of London police said they were not prepared to release the pictures as they were one of a range of techniques used for intelligence purposes. “We are constantly assessing the situation and continue to provide low key policing that facilitates peaceful while minimising disruption to the local community,” said a spokesman.

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This is surely a sad commentary on the ethics of the majority of the protesters encamped outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The note in heavy-type (above) says it all. Those who are loudest in their protest – against the venality of the rich exploiting the poor – despite this statement of solidarity with the ‘poor’ – are not prepared to suffer the discomfort of occupying their intended fortress against capitalism overnight. One does wonder, though, what are the deep-down intentions of those ten percent of protesters who remain in the encampment – are they professional protesters, holding the fort, or are they genuinely disadvantaged citizens, desperate to make a point?

Whatever the true situation, it cannot be allowed to continue to prevent worshippers from entering the Cathedral. In an odd synchronicity with the Gospel story of Jesus, driving out the money-changers from the Temple in Jerusalem, one wonders what He might have done in the current circumstances? Where would the Cathedral authorities have stood in the conflict at this stage?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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