A group of Anglican clerics have called on St Paul's Cathedral to fully explain why praying Christians were dragged by police from the steps of the famous landmark during the eviction of the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp.
Five praying Christians were forcibly removed from the cathedral steps during the operation, despite the fact that an eviction order had only been granted for the land opposite St Paul’s which is owned by the City of London Corporation.
The group had gathered on the steps to pray for the evicted protestors in the mistaken belief that they would not be removed.
The five Christians that were forced off the steps have written an open letter to St Paul’s calling on them to explain whether the cathedral gave police permission to remove them.
The letter to Canon Pastor Michael Colclough, seen by The Independent, has been countersigned by twenty-one people including 11 Anglican clerics and six Baptist ministers.
“We were profoundly shocked to be forcibly removed from the steps of a church as we prayed,” the letter states. “We would like to see a very clear public statement from the Cathedral Chapter concerning communication with the police and with the City of London Corporation prior to and during the eviction. Please can you tell us what permission was given, either explicitly or implicitly? Please can you tell us if you consider that the police were right to remove us from the steps and, if so, why?”
Protestors recorded video of police officers telling them that they had been told by the Cathedral to remove them from the steps. When The Independent pressed church leaders in the aftermath of the eviction they said they did not give express permission but told them they “would not stand in the way” of the steps being cleared if it was needed.
Rev Keith Hebden, a priest in Gloucestershire who signed the letter, told The Independent that the cathedral needed to do much more to explain what happened during the eviction.
“The repeated offer of St Paul's Chapter to 'set up a tent inside the Cathedral' only underlines their inability to grasp what Occupy is all about,” he said. “Now that those involved, including people of faith, have been violently removed from the steps of St Paul's Cathedral I ask them to make clear, not only what part they played in complicity to the violence, but also what they intend to do in the face of real and pressing issues of injustice that their (indoor) St Paul's Institute has consistently failed to grapple with.”