Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London resigns over Occupy protest

October 31, 2011

(A demonstrator directs questions to the Dean of St Paul's, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, as he meets with demonstrators camped outside St Paul's Cathedral in London October 30, 2011. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett)

A second senior British cleric resigned on Monday over accusations that Church of England authorities were dithering in their handling of an anti-capitalism protest camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral in central London. The Cathedral Dean, the Rt Rev Graeme Knowles, said in a statement that he and colleagues had been under considerable strain and his position had become untenable.

Reverend Giles Fraser, Chancellor of the cathedral, quit on Thursday because he opposed planned legal action against the camp that he said could result in violence being done in the name of the Church.

The protesters, inspired by similar ‘Occupy’ protests around the world, have been demonstrating for the past two weeks against the excesses of free market capitalism and for greater financial equality — among a wide range of disparate issues. They wanted to pitch their tents outside the nearby London Stock Exchange, a symbol of the city’s status as a global financial centre, but it is on private land and they were not allowed to rally there.

Instead, some 200 tents have sprung up around the cathedral, many in front of the famous steps on which Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana appeared after their wedding in 1981.

Church authorities have begun legal action against the demonstration but say they want to remove the tents rather than the protesters, whose message many of them support, and stress that they would not condone any violence. The City of London Corporation, on whose land some of the tents sit, is also taking legal action to remove the camp.

Cathedral clerics have been criticised not only over the possible use of force to break up the camp, but also over their decision to close the cathedral for a week on health and safety grounds, costing it some 20,000 pounds a day in lost revenue.

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