Bishop: Violence must be avoided at London protest

AP News
Posted: Oct 30, 2011 11:46 AM
Bishop: Violence must be avoided at London protest

Clergymen and demonstrators held talks Sunday aimed at avoiding a violent confrontation over an anti-capitalist protest camp outside London's iconic St. Paul's Cathedral.

Both the church and the local authority, the City of London Corporation, have launched legal action in the hope of clearing scores of tents from a pedestrianized square and footpath outside the cathedral.

Hundreds of protesters have joined the demonstration, inspired by New York's Occupy Wall Street movement, at the site, forcing the cathedral to close for a week on health and safety grounds amid concerns they were blocking access to the popular site for worshippers and visitors.

It was the first time the 300-year-old church, which reopened Friday, had closed since German planes bombed the city during World War II.

Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, told a crowd of several hundred people at the protest camp that religious leaders understood some of their concerns, and hoped tents could be cleared without violent resistance.

Britain's High Court will decide whether to authorize authorities to forcibly clear the protest camp. Many expect the process to be lengthy and complex.

"I have spoken to the police and there is absolutely no use for a violent confrontation," Chartres said, addressing protesters at an open-air meeting. "I do not think we are on the inevitable road to violence."

He said he had been encouraged by some demonstrators who had suggested in talks that the protest camp could be moved to an alternative site.

Other campaigners insisted they would not leave willingly. "I am an absolute believer in non-violence, but I am not going to go of my own accord. I will only leave this site if I am removed physically," said George Barda, a 35-year-old from London.

Demonstrators erected dozens of tents outside the church on Oct. 15, during a thwarted attempt to stage a protest outside the nearby London Stock Exchange.