St. Paul’s Cathedral is an important symbol for London. It was the site of Princess Diana’s and Prince Charles’ wedding. It stood through the bombings of World War II when the neighborhood around it was heavily damaged, providing hope for Londoners during uncertain times. Famous funerals have been held here for Admiral Lord Nelson and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. It dominates the skyline and draws tourists from around the world. As a result of the Occupy London protests, today it is in turmoil.
When the protests began and protesters were blocked from the square outside the London Stock Exchange, St. Paul’s welcomed them and shooed away the police. Now St. Paul’s wants the protesters to leave, but can’t decide how this will happen. Thus far, three clerics from St. Paul’s have resigned their positions over disagreements on how to proceed.
The problem is that the church champions many of the protesters’ causes. It also sees itself as a beacon of hope for the oppressed. A quote from its website: “…London’s cathedral seeks to be a house of prayer for people of all nations. It is a place for protest against injustice and for the public express[ion] of hope for a better society. Martin Luther King stopped at St Paul’s en route to collect his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Involvement in the global community and social justice is as much a part of the working life of St Paul’s as prayer and ceremony.”
I had walked past the protesters a couple of times, but Michael hadn’t seen them yet. So, on Saturday after our trip to Greenwich, we decided to walk past St. Paul’s. The atmosphere was a bit like a three-ring circus. One guitarist was performing. Then there was this guy doing a dance and blasting his music on the steps:
The number of visitors to the cathedral has fallen drastically, and the presence of the protesters has hurt the cathedral’s bottom line while the Stock Exchange continues to operate as usual. Is this what the protesters really want?
The latest news is that the City of London Corporation will serve notice on the protesters to leave or be evicted, but St. Paul’s has decided not to pursue legal action. I’m curious to see how this all turns out. Will the protesters end up staying there the whole time we are here in London?