The doors of the historic St Paul’s Cathedral will remain shut to members of the public Saturday as an anti-capitalism protest outside continues, it was announced.
The Dean of St Paul’s, Graeme Knowles, has asked the activists, who have occupied a makeshift campsite outside the main entrance of the house of worship since last Saturday, to move on.
But despite the drastic closure, the protesters voted to stay in the camp. The Dean said the famous cathedral was forced to close for health and safety reasons adding that the last time it was forced to close was most likely during the Second World War.
In a statement, he said “the decision to close St Paul’s Cathedral is unprecedented in modern times.
“We have done this with a very heavy heart, but it is simply not possible to fulfil our day to day obligations to worshippers, visitors and pilgrims in current circumstances.”
“I hope that the protesters will understand the issues we are facing, recognise that their voice has been legitimately heard, and withdraw peacefully.”
Some of the issues raised by independent health and safety and fire officers included the presence of unknown quantities of flammable liquids, smoking and drinking in tented areas, compromised fire exits and public health issues such as sanitation and food hygiene.
However, the Occupy London Stock Exchange group said they have thus far co-operated with fire authorities and said they seek clarification about the health and safety issues.
A wedding, which was scheduled to take place today, will still go ahead, the Dean said. Outside, the activists said they would throw the couple a party.
Yesterday, the campers decided that they would not leave the vicinity “for the moment”.
One female protester said “we should not be blackmailed into moving. We agree that we should stay. It is too necessary for us to go straight away.”
The cathedral is one of London’s best loved tourist attractions and draws between 2,000 and 3,000 worshippers each Sunday.
A cathedral dedicated to St Paul has stood on the site since 604 AD and it has been the focus point for many a royal celebration, including Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and the marriage of Lady Diana Spencer to the Prince of Wales in 1981.
It also staged the funerals of Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Sir Winston Churchill, the peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars and more recently the Service of Remembrance and Commemoration for the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The camp is occupied by dozens of tents and sits under a banner which reads “capitalism is crisis”.
Three generators are providing power to the camp, there are two portable toilets and a kitchen, and even a library has been constructed.