Occupy Protesters Shoved Off Cathedral Steps 'A Terrible Sight' Says Giles Fraser, Former St Paul's Canon Chancellor
A former senior figure at St Paul's has attacked the eviction of anti-capitalist protesters from the steps of the cathedral as a "terrible" sight and a "sad day" for the Church of England.
As video emerged of police at St Paul's claiming the cathedral gave permission to move protesters off the steps of the iconic building, Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor of St Paul's rather than see the protesters evicted by force, spoke of his dismay after seeing the camp cleared.
"Riot police clearing the steps of St Paul's Cathedral was a terrible sight. This is a sad day for the Church," he said.
Dr Fraser's remarks come after he tweeted that he was "really proud" of the way Occupy protesters had conducted themselves during the eviction.
According to the Occupy London website, Dr Fraser was prevented from crossing police lines to reach the site last night.
Supporter Kai Wargalla, a 27-year-old student from Germany who has been camping at St Paul's since the occupation began on October 15, said:
"We hadn't expected to be evicted from the cathedral steps because previously the church has said it would give us sanctuary when there's a violent eviction.
"There was also some really unnecessary tension and stress caused by the police when they told us we had five minutes to take our things from the camp."
St Paul's Cathedral said in a statement: "In the past few months, we have all been made to re-examine important issues about social and economic justice and the role the cathedral can play.
"We regret the camp had to be removed by bailiffs but we are fully committed to continuing to promote these issues through our worship, teaching and Institute.
"The cathedral is open today and set aside for prayer and reflection. The cathedral is accessible to everyone.
"The area currently cordoned off is for essential repairs to damaged paving.
"Clergy are available throughout the day for pastoral care and support."
The protest forced a week-long closure of the cathedral in late October, the first time it had been closed since the Second World War, after officials received a report by health and safety officials.
During the closure, Dr Fraser resigned, saying he feared the church was set on a course of action which could lead to protesters being moved by force.
The Dean of St Paul's also later resigned. The Rt Rev Graeme Knowles said it had been "a testing time" and mounting criticism made it "increasingly clear" that his position was "untenable".
Bailiffs and police arrived at the site early this morning, five days after Occupy London was refused permission by the Court of Appeal to challenge orders evicting protesters.
City of London Police said 20 people were arrested in the "largely peaceful" operation.
The City of London Corporation confirmed that the removal of tents and equipment outside St Paul's had been completed.
"The City of London Corporation ensured any vulnerable people at the site were helped and supported to find appropriate accommodation in partnership with Broadway, a charity for the homeless," it said in a statement.
Granting orders for possession and injunctions against Occupy London at the High Court last month, Justice Lindblom said the proposed action by the City of London Corporation - which it pledged not to enforce pending appeal - was "entirely lawful and justified", as well as necessary and proportionate.
Although some remained on site when police arrived, many began dismantling the equipment before bailiffs moved in. A group of protesters remained defiant, waving flags and banging tambourines on top of a makeshift wooden structure facing the cathedral but the platform was eventually dismantled.