#OccupyLSX – London Occupation

 

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OccupyLSX: London Occupation
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‘Time for us all to focus on the real issues’ says Dean of St Paul’s as he
meets Occupation for the first time, accompanied by the Bishop of London

‘The camp is a living parable’ declares assembled religious
representatives in an unprecedented multi-faith protest gathering on the
steps of St Paul’s yesterday

Members of the Clergy add their voices to the protest and over a thousand
people attend ‘Sermon on the Steps’ of St Paul’s as support for Occupy
London Stock Exchange swells

This morning on the steps of St Paul’s, Revd Graeme Knowles, Dean of St
Paul’s and Richard Chartes, Bishop of London, addressed and met with
Occupy London’s public assembly for the first time. In a display of
multi-faith unity, the public session was opened and blessed by Imam Dr
Muhammad Al-Hussaini. The Bishop of London also gave a blessing to the
public assembly.

In a move welcomed by Occupy London (OccupyLSX) – who aim to challenge
social and economic injustice and fight for real democracy – the Dean and
the Bishop participated in the public assembly, listening and responding
to the questions and concerns of the occupiers. The Dean and Bishop
stated that they were willing to engage in dialogue with the occupation
and agreed with the occupation that it was ‘time for us all to focus on
the real issues’ and that the church had shared views with the protest
[1].

Helen Morisson, a supporter of OccupyLSX said: “Today’s conversation was
respectful and compassionate. We’re delighted to hear that the Bishop has
agreed to meet us for a second time. This is the start of a productive
dialogue about how decisions made by a few are affecting the many. It’s
about real democracy.”

In light of this, people from the occupation encouraged St Paul’s
Institute not to continue to delay the publication their findings,
reported to be raising profound concerns about the banking sector’s
willingness to accept responsibility for the financial crisis [2].

Occupiers voiced their surprise and disappointment that St Paul’s had
decided to partner with the Corporation of London and pursue legal action
against people occupying, which may inevitably lead to forcible eviction
and violence from the police. The decision to begin the eviction process
prompted Dr Giles Fraser to step down as canon chancellor, on Thursday.
The Dean and Bishop responded that they were committed to finding a
non-violent resolution, but this left many occupiers feeling that their
questions about forcible eviction were not fully addressed.

“We welcome the meeting today, and we’ve been working hard and
co-operating with the cathedral all this while” said Lucy, an occupier
“but when you are talking about forcible eviction and police violence, it
isn’t an abstract thing – it’s my body that will be pulled from my tent
and dragged on the ground, my face and arms that will be beaten by police
batons. I am here working in the daytime and occupying at night, I want
to see change – an end to this Government’s unnecessary cuts, attacks on
public sector workers and the welfare state, these issues affect us all.
I’m here to represent the 99%. The Bishop of London and the Dean of St
Paul’s must 100% guarantee that police violence won’t happen in their
name.”

In contrast, a call from members of the clergy for the occupation to
continue was yesterday given voice, as Occupy London’s third consecutive
weekend in occupation saw a special event: ‘Sermon on the Steps’ which
featured readings, prayer, short speeches and song. Christian groups,
Catholic Workers, Pax Christi, Quakers, Church of England clergy, Jewish
outreach groups, atheists, humanists and an Iraq War veteran [3] were
among many who stood on the steps of St Paul’s in solidarity with the
protest. They spoke out in opposition to ‘our unsustainable economic
system’ and in support the occupation, urging it to continue to occupy
despite the legal action being brought against it by the Corporation of
London and St Paul’s [4].

Over a thousand assembled to listen and participate in the ‘Sermon’ which
was held at 3pm Saturday directly outside St Paul’s cathedral. Tourists
mingled with protesters and a wedding party was cheered and applauded by
the assembly of people gathered to listen to the Sermon. Families
visiting the occupation on Saturday enjoyed “Occupy Half Term” – a tent
that turned into a play space for the afternoon and young people spoke and
shared their opinions on the protest. The OccupyLSX ‘Sermon on the Steps’
also had speeches from people who had visited other occupations around the
world, including Occupy Wall Street in New York. The Occupy movement is
challenging social and economic injustices in the UK and around the world
[5].

After three weeks in occupation, Occupy London has seen the size of the
occupation grow with a second site established on Finsbury Square.
Numerous offers of support and donations from members of the public, local
business-people and city-workers, along with trade unions, MPs and
celebrities [6] [7] [8], the Occupy London movement is bringing people
together from across the political spectrum, united in the call for change
[9].

Excerpts from ‘Sermon on the Steps’ participants:

“What is happening here at St Paul’s is a moment of transformation – a
glimpse of what is possible. In just a few days, the hope of living more
compassionately, more justly, more kindly has been incarnated in the City
of London and it threatens ‘business as usual’. As the prophet Zachariah
said,’Not by power, nor by might but by the spirit’ – that is what
sustains those who are camping here and it inspires us all.”
Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, Director Earth Charter UK

“The camp is living parable. In the tradition of St Paul the tent maker
the Occupation is a symbolic testament against corruption and greed.”
Chris Erskine – Christian Charity Worker, Seedbed Christian Community Trust
“The armed forces are not to be used as a private army for the
profiteering of the 1 percent”
Matthew Horn – veteran from UK Forces in Iraq and occupier

“As a Catholic priest, it was a privilege to speak to the demonstrator’s
on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. Those present were clearly focused on
the task in hand, namely the rich getting richer and the poor getting
poorer. We cannot rest while this is the case; hopefully the demonstration
will continue.”
Father Joseph Ryan – Catholic Priest

“The sermon on the steps today was an inspirational show of unity and a
show of how so many people of all backgrounds are standing together to
fight injustice globally. Regardless of religion or political affiliation
we are now hopefully kick-starting a much needed change in the world”
Chris from Occupy London (OccupyLSX)

“Institutions of the City of London are built on idolatry. They encourage
us to worship the power of money and markets. Today we saw people of many
religions and of none recognise the reality of a different power – the
power of love manifested in active non-violence”
Symon Hill – Quaker & Baptist

“We are here against all the odds, because something greater than all of
us and all the powers out there want us to be here. The biggest
achievement today was to have a blessing from the Bishop of London for the
public assembly”
Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini – Academic

ENDS

Editors notes:
[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-15510444
[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/exclusive-coverup-at-st-pauls-2377923.html
[3] Speech made by Matthew Horn – veteran from UK Forces in Iraq and
occupier (@2mins): http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18186207
[4] Videos of speeches can be found here at:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/occupylondon

[5] OccupyLSX is part of 20 actions and occupations happening in towns and
cities across the UK and over 950 actions worldwide who came together for
a global day of action on October 15th, under the banner of “United For
Global Change” calling for real democracy. For more info on UK occupations
please see: http://www.occupybritain.co.uk/protest-details/
[6] UNITE: Len McCluskey, Gen Secretary and a call for direct action:

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/dnuo66

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-14870772

[7] http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2011/10/occupy-solidarity/
[8] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/28/celebrities-support-occupy-protests?newsfeed=true
[9] People’s assembly first initial statement: http://occupylsx.org/?p=221

 
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