Around 250 campaigners remained pitched outside St Paul’s Cathedral for a second day yesterday after police thwarted their attempts to take over the area outside the London Stock Exchange.
They said they were inspired by an array of causes including the quest for global justice, the failures of financial regulation, opposition to the coalition’s NHS reforms and a desire to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement. One invoked the spirit of the Egyptian revolution by fixing a sign to a pillar opposite St Paul’s saying “Tahrir Square, EC4M”.
Tom, 33, a philosophy lecturer who declined to give his surname, told City A.M. that a core of activists would stay “as long as possible”. Some, however, like software developer Gavin Meredith, 25, said they planned to leave the protest later yesterday in order to go to work today.
The police presence was scaled down after the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, the canon chancellor of St Paul’s, asked officers to move off the steps of the cathedral. He said: “I think people have a right to protest, and I’m very happy that people have a right to protest. And people are being generally respectful.”
Worshippers at St Paul’s stepped around the camp as they made their way into the cathedral. Jill Hooper, 67, said the protestors were not unruly but theirs aims were unclear.
“I don’t think it is effective if I came in and out of church not knowing what it is for.”
At its height on Saturday the protest attracted 3,000 people, according to organisers, and included Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell. One service at St Paul’s was cancelled.
Over the weekend eight people were arrested on suspicion of affray, assault on a police officer and possession of cannabis. Activists claimed they had been “kettled” and a police spokesman said a “containment”awas in place for two hours on Saturday.
Rallies also took place in more than 80 nations in Asia, Europe and the US as part of a “day of rage”. They reached their height in Rome where masked Black Bloc protesters torched cars, attacked banks and hurled rocks. They were condemned “without reservation” by prime minister Silvio Berlusconi but Italians asked why police made only 12 arrests.