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Occupy London: Council Set To Evict As St Paul's Reopens Its Doors

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OCCUPY
The Occupy London Stock Exchange protest outside St Paul's Cathedral in central London | PA

Legal action will be taken to evict protesters camped outside the Cathedral, the City of London Corporation has announced.

The planning and transport committee voted to proceed with court action to remove the tents and their residents from the cathedral's surrounds.

Chairing the committee meeting, Michael Welbank said that protest is an essential right in a democracy "but camping on the highway is not and we believe we will have a strong highways case because an encampment on a busy thoroughfare clearly impacts the rights of others".

A spokesperson for the Cathedral told the BBC that the move had become necessary.

"At each step of the legal process the chapter will continue to entreat the protesters to agree to a peaceful solution and, if an injunction is granted, will then be able to discuss with the protesters how to reach this solution," they said.

The news comes as St Paul’s reopened its doors to the public for Friday services.

The building has been closed for the past week due to the Occupy London protesters camped outside.

During the Friday Eucharist service, Graeme Knowles, the Dean of the cathedral, used his sermon to emphasise the role of the church in social justice.

"We rejoice at an open cathedral," he said, calling the protest outside "a sign of social pressure."

The reopening follows the resignation of cathedral chancellor Canon Dr Giles Fraser on Thursday, who quit because he feared plans to evict the protesters could lead to violence.

Earlier, David Cameron expressed his concern at the ongoing demonstration outside the cathedral.

Speaking in Perth, Cameron called the area "a key national site" and "a key tourist site".

"It's very important in the whole history and psyche of our country, and I think it's very concerning that it's not open," he added.

"I hope that it can be resolved and I hope that the authorities, the Church, the mayor, the police, the Home Office, everyone can work together to make sure this happens."

"Of course we need the right to protest but these tents - whether in Parliament Square or whether in St Paul's - I don't think is the right way forward, and I do think we need to look at this whole area and I'm very keen that we do."

The City of London Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, is expected to launch eviction proceedings within the next few days.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has criticised both the St Paul's authorities and the Occupy demonstrators.

''One moment the church was reclaiming a valuable role in hosting public protest and scrutiny," he said of the cathedral hierarchy. "The next it was looking in turns like the temple which Jesus cleansed, or the officious risk-averse 'elf and safety bureaucracy of urban legend."

Of the protesters, he called them ''spoilt middle-class children returning home at night for a shower and a warm bed''.

Campaign group Liberty has written to the Cathedral authorities and the City of London Corporation offering to hold talks on neutral ground at its Westminster office in the hope of achieving a "peaceful and non-violent resolution to the dispute".

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, said that the rights to peaceful dissent and freedom of worship "are cornerstones of British democracy."

“We find it hard to believe that there can't be sensible resolution of the apparent stalemate at St Paul’s without the need for expensive litigation and violent eviction when Church, London and police resources could be so much better spent," she added.

“It is extremely heartening that the demonstrators have accepted our invitation to come to talks at Liberty House and we have every hope the authorities will do the same."

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