Evidence has emerged of the critical role St Paul’s cathedral played in giving police permission to remove praying Christians from its steps when the Occupy London Stock Exchange camp was forcibly evicted earlier this year.
The incident caused widespread anger among many Christian groups who were already dismayed at the stance London’s most famous cathedral had taken towards the anti-corporate greed protest that sprung overnight on their doorstep late last year.
The cathedral initially insisted that it had not ordered riot police to remove anyone from its steps. But in a letter obtained by The Independent, the head of the City of London police confirmed that permission was given by the Cathedral so that protesters could then be removed for trespassing on private property.
In the letter, which was sent to London Assembly Member Jenny Jones, City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard states: “I can confirm that permission was given by St Paul’s to clear the steps on 28 th Febraury 2012.”
He adds that permission was sought so that the steps outside the cathedral could be cleaned after the camp’s eviction. “To enable the work to be carried out the steps had to be clear of people and any persons remaining on the steps were not there with the permission of St Paul’s and in doing so they became trespassers,” he writes.
His narrative stands in stark contrast to the official line put out by the cathedral in the immediate aftermath of the eviction where officials insisted that “the police did not ask for permission from us regarding any aspect of the action taken” during the clearance.
In a later statement provided by the cathedral officials insisted that permission was given to the City of London Corporation who “asked the police to clear the area temporarily of people so that [cleaning] could be carried out”.
A spokesman for the cathedral last night repeated that stance saying they were approached by the City of London who wanted to clear the surrounding area including the steps. “Permission was given to clear the steps so this work could be carried out,” he said. He added that protestors were allowed back the following day to hold a general assembly on the steps and that cathedral officials have held regular meetings with Occupy leaders since the camp was evicted.
However a number of Christian activists last night accused the cathedral of being evasive in what specific role it played in allowing the police to drag praying Christians from the steps of one of Britain’s most iconic religious buildings.
Sam Walton, one of the Christians who was dragged away that night, said: “St Paul’s Cathedral have acted in a fundamentally dishonest and unchristian manner. They have repeatedly dodged questions about their role in Occupy’s eviction and misled Christians, the public and a member of the London Assembly in saying it was the Corporation of London who had asked for the area to be cleared of protesters. I call on Canon Pastor Michael Colclough to make an immediate statement setting out the facts about the cathedral's role in the eviction.”
Siobhan Grimes, another protester removed while praying, added: “The trustees of St Paul’s Cathedral knew that Occupy stood with the poor as Jesus did, and had repeated made statements supporting the Occupy protest. So why did they support the Corporation of London in evicting Occupy? It seems that St Paul’s is influenced more by City of London than by Jesus’ teachings.”Reuse content