Relations between St Paul's Cathedral and the Occupy London protest movement have been soured anew after the cathedral provided a dossier of evidence to support a legal bid to evict demonstrators who have been camped on its doorstep for nearly two months.
In a letter to be used by the City of London Corporation in its High Court proceedings, the registrar of St Paul's, Nicholas Cottam, described the "desecration" of the cathedral, claiming that "graffiti have been scratched and painted" on to the building, that "human defecation has occurred" on its grounds and that "alcohol and other stimulants" fuel noise levels which have caused complaints.
The statement also notes that more than half of school parties have cancelled cathedral trips since the camp sprang up, due to safety concerns.
Members of the Occupy London movement said the comments undermined previous progress in relations with the Church. "What is St Paul's Cathedral doing?" a spokesman said. "They pulled out of legal action – or said they did, and said they would work with us. Right now, it sounds like they are working with both sides.
"This submission, which they did not have to provide, is an attempt to bolster the corporation's legal case. If St Paul's was not acting against the camp, they would not be doing this."
Cathedral officials say they have proposed other ways in which the movement can continue its demonstration. A spokesman reiterated that St Paul's is not part of the legal action but said: "Our position has been consistent, even if it has been expressed in different ways over the past two months. We want the camp to disband.
"We respect the corporation's right to carry out its statutory duty but we want to work with the protesters in developing their theme and getting their message out.
"We were asked to provide a statement, but the central message of the camp is something that is worth debating and getting more exposure for because there are inequalities in the financial system and gaps between the rich and the poor."
The cathedral is believed to be frustrated that the focus of much of the attention is now the camp itself, its internal politics and the legal action, rather than on efforts to bring about change in the way the financial system is regulated, which it supports. But a spokesman confirmed that, should the demonstrators ask, St Paul's would consider providing a similar witness statement, backing up their cause, a request the group was "considering".
A spokesman for Occupy London said: "Things have been scaled back already over the past few weeks. It is probably going to look different in the run-up to Christmas. There is a feeling that St Paul's is a headquarters and we are anticipating there will be some presence there but we are having discussions about stripping down the residential side."
Occupy London is spread across three sites, one at St Paul's, one at nearby Finsbury Square and another, non-residential site in a disused office block owned by the Swiss bank UBS.
A spokesman for the City of London Corporation said: "It is time for the camp to go. We do not have a problem with protest but camping in central London cannot be part of that."Reuse content