Protests close London’s St Paul’s Cathedral

| October 22, 2011

LONDON — St Paul's Cathedral said Friday it was closing its doors to the public for the first time in modern history because of anti-capitalist demonstrators camped outside the London landmark.

More than 200 activists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement have taken over a paved area in front of the cathedral in the city's financial district since Saturday to protest against corporate greed and state cutbacks.

"I have written an open letter to the protestors this afternoon advising them that we have no lawful alternative but to close St Paul?s Cathedral until further notice," said Graeme Knowles, the dean of the cathedral.

"We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances," he said.

Health, fire and safety officers believed there was a fire hazard from stoves, fires and different types of fuel being used near tents, and there was also a "public health aspect" from waste produced by the protesters, he said.

Knowles said the cathedral authorities shared the protesters concerns about social inequality, but hoped they would "recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully."

He added: "The decision to close St Paul?s Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times."

Knowles however refused to condemn the protesters, saying that they had been peaceful so far and that there was "something profound about protest being made and heard in front of this most holy place".

The protest camp has grown from 70 tents at the start to 150.

 

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