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Civil Rights: Occupy London protesters face legal action

For the past two weeks a host of anti-capitalist protesters have set up camp outside St Paul's Cathedral in London, causing problems for the cathedral and its clergy.

The cathedral and the City of London Corporation have finally decided to bring legal action against the protesters. Separately, they intend to seek High Court injunctions for the removal of the protesters.

The protest, Occupy London, began on 15 October in solidarity with similar protests taking place in New York, USA. The protest is a peaceful demonstration against social injustice, economic inequality, corporate greed, the lack of affordable housing in the UK and many other issues.

They decided to camp in the vicinity of St Paul's Cathedral after their attempts to do so outside the London Stock Exchange were thwarted by police. But with around 200 tents set up, at one time forcing the cathedral to close, the clergy began to have disagreements over how the protesters should be treated.

While the Canon Chancellor of St Paul's Giles Fraser was happy for people to "exercise their right to protest peacefully", the Dean the Right Rev Graeme Knowles tried to make protesters leave by claiming they were a health and safety threat.

Giles Fraser resigned on 27 October saying, "I resigned because I believe that the chapter has set on a course of action that could mean there will be violence in the name of the church."

On the 28th October, as the cathedral opened its doors again, St Paul's announced that it would seek an injunction "with the greatest reluctance" in order to move the protesters on.

Yesterday, 31 October, the Dean also resigned claiming that his position had become "untenable".

The Archbishop of Canterbury said: "The events of the last couple of weeks have shown very clearly how decisions made in good faith by good people under unusual pressure can have utterly unforeseen and unwelcome consequences, and the clergy of St Paul's deserve our understanding in these circumstances.

"The urgent larger issues raised by the protesters at St Paul's remain very much on the table and we need - as a church and as society as a whole - to work to make sure that they are properly addressed."

The protesters remain unperturbed by the threat of legal action.

Ian Chamberlain of Occupy London Stock Exchange said: "They have to serve that notice and give us 48 hours so there is room for us to respond with legal action or whatever.

"Our invitation for dialogue is still there. Liberty offered to facilitate a meeting to have dialogue with the Corporation of London and they haven't responded yet. We will stay here right until the end and explore legal options to respond to any eviction notice we do receive."

Related links:
Read more on the story (Press Association)
Can I be arrested for joining a public protest? (FindLaw)
Find local specialist solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)