Re-Occupied: protest camp is back at St Paul's

Activists move into private square just two months after losing drawn-out eviction fight
  • @_richardhall

Activists from the Occupy movement achieved what they had failed to do more than six months ago as they pitched tents outside the London Stock Exchange last night.

Around 50 people came with tents and supplies to Paternoster Square, only yards from their previous home in St Paul's Cathedral, where demonstrators dug in for four-and-a-half months after their first bid to occupy the square was derailed by police.

A banner was unfurled outside the entrance of the Stock Exchange which read: "A line of tents guards our futures."

Activists said the decision to stage the occupation was a spontaneous one, made following May Day protests across London.

"This was something we have wanted to do on October 15 and we have finally done it," said a spokesman for the campaign. "Even if we lose it tonight, it proves that we can do it. This is what it's about. This is a force that will not be stopped."

Police and bailiffs dismantled the Occupy movement's previous camp outside St Paul's Cathedral in February following legal action by the City of London Corporation.

Protesters set up tents in the area surrounding the cathedral to protest against corporate greed after an unsuccessful attempt to occupy the London Stock Exchange.

As the camp grew from its original handful of tents and protesters, so did calls for its removal. Its presence outside St Paul's caused friction within the church, and forced a week-long closure of the cathedral in late October, the first time it had been closed since the Second World War.

The reaction by members of St Paul's to the camp led to the resignation of the cathedral's Canon Chancellor, Dr Giles Fraser, who said he feared the church was set on a course of action which could lead to protesters being moved by force.

Dr Fraser called the eviction a "sad day" for the Church of England, adding: "Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral was a terrible sight."

The Dean of St Paul's also later resigned. The Right Reverend Graeme Knowles said it had been "a testing time" and mounting criticism made it "increasingly clear" that his position was "untenable".

Daniel Brown, a 25-year-old computer scientist among those bedding down in Paternoster Square last night, said protesters were going to stay "until our demands are met".

"We don't think it is fair that the government has bailed out the banks and that we have to pay for it.

"We don't think it's fair that we are facing cuts to pay for their mistakes. That is why we are staying," said Mr Brown.

As of last night, police had made no arrests. A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: "There are officers on scene and they are there to to facilitate peaceful protest."