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New anti-capitalist camp opens as the St Paul's protesters defy Dean

They've pitched their tents outside the cathedral and now they are gearing up to take over the Square Mile
  • @kunaldutta

If worshippers hoping to attend services at St Paul's thought the anti-capitalist protests outside would be short-lived, their prayers have not been answered.

Those camped outside the London landmark are defiant in their determination to stay – even though it has meant closing the cathedral for the first time since the Blitz – and their occupation is spreading. Last night in Finsbury Square, barely a mile from St Paul's and a stone's throw from the headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland, a new camp was springing up.

More tents, more toilets and more banners emphasised the campaigners' insistence that this is a long-term movement. Which is precisely what the Dean of St Paul's, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, is worried about. Health and safety fears forced the cathedral to close yesterday; a spokesman said £16,000 in visitor donations would be lost every day it is shut. Dean Knowles asked the protesters to "let the cathedral get its life back". But his plea fell on deaf ears.

"We're not planning to move or trying to get in anyone's way, and we're not trying to piss off the church," said Lucy Brisbane, a 19-year-old student. The Met kept a low-key presence as protesters and curious bystanders gathered in the camp, which now has a food marquee, a media tent (replete with piano) and a "university".

Another protester, Rachel Mariner, 44, from Cambridge, said: "I saw the world my kids were going to inherit, a world controlled by corporations. It is about awakening the commonality between people, not just about students and anarchists." Earlier, Nawal El Saadawi issued a call to arms. Clutching a placard reading, "Tahrir Square, WC2", she shouted: "I am going back to Cairo and I take the message we are fighting together."

It takes courage to walk among anti-capitalists in a suit. But nothing was going to stop guests celebrating Natasha Ighodaro's wedding to Nick Cunningham, even if it did mean the bride being bundled through a side door. The suited and booted congregation picked their way through up to 200 tents and loitered at a pub awaiting further instruction. "This is a private event," an usher said nervously.

Theirs were not the only ceremony disrupted. Around the corner in the precincts of the cathedral, Michael Ianetta looked flustered. The Wall Street banker had flown over from New York for the weekend to renew his wedding vows on his 25th anniversary: "Now I come here and I see this." Banners declaring "capitalism is crisis" was not what he had in mind as the backdrop for this special day. "They don't seem to know what they're protesting about," Mr Ianetta said, clutching an email with instructions on how to ensure his service could still go ahead. "It's happening in New York too. They're protesting against the very things that keep them alive."

In New York, the Occupy Wall Street protests spread first to Brooklyn Bridge and then to Times Square. Over here, the new camp in Finsbury Square could be just the start of an orchestrated campaign.

Simultaneous meetings were held at both camps last night to agree a blueprint for the way ahead. Those at Finsbury Square called for the new site to be a less disruptive alternative to the cathedral steps. Meanwhile at St Paul's, activists made it their mission to get more involvement from City workers, as another week of protests lay ahead.

Wail Qasim, a student at Royal Holloway, told The IoS: "The St Paul's site is at capacity and we're not allowed any more tents there, but we can stay [at Finsbury] as long as possible. We are out of the jurisdiction of the City of London and near the headquarters of RBS, so it's quite a pertinent space. We will stay for the foreseeable future, another week, another month, another three months. Who knows?"

Top tax man is new target

Anti-tax evasion campaigners are to target Britain's top tax man. UK Uncut is demanding the resignation of David Hartnett, and plan to pay a visit to HMRC tomorrow to confront him.

The campaigners, who have controversially targeted high street stores such as Topshop and Marks & Spencer, are now turning their attention to Mr Hartnett, the permanent secretary for tax at HM Revenue & Customs.

Mr Hartnett, who the campaigners have dubbed the "best friend of tax-dodging corporations", has been accused of facilitating "sweetheart" deals with the global phone giant Vodafone and Goldman Sachs, reportedly letting them off millions in tax.

In a parliamentary grilling earlier this month, Mr Hartnett denied dealing with the tax affairs of Goldman Sachs, but leaked papers revealed he had "shaken hands" on a settlement last December. Margaret Hodge MP, who chairs the Treasury Select Committee, accused Mr Hartnett of "lying" about a tax deal involving the tax affairs of Goldman Sachs. Mr Hartnett denied lying, but apologised for a "mistake".

UK Uncut says it plans to visit Mr Hartnett, a man exposed last year as the "most wined and dined civil servant" in Whitehall.

UK Uncut said: "We demand that Mr Hartnett resigns, that corporations are made to pay their fair share, and that the money is used to stop cuts to our public services."

Sarah Morrison