The Canon Pastor of St Paul's Cathedral has refused to meet with five Christians who were dragged by police from the cathedral steps as they knelt in prayer during the eviction of Occupy London Stock Exchange.
The five had asked to meet “in a spirit of love and respect”. Their letter was counter-signed by twenty clergy, including eleven from the Church of England.
A legal case against the police may depend on clarity from the cathedral authorities over whether they gave permission for people to be forcibly removed from their steps. The court order for eviction applied only to land belonging to the City of London Corporation.
The five, who are members of Christianity Uncut, have expressed their disappointment with the cathedral's response.
They include George Barda, who has been involved the Occupy camp with its early days, as well as Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the Ekklesia thinktank, its associate director Symon Hill, Anglican climate change campaigner Siobhan Grimes and Quaker activist Sam Walton.
The Canon Pastor, Rt Rev Michael Colclough, said that the issue should be “put behind us so that we can all continue our work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.
Siobhan Grimes said, “We offered to meet with Michael Colclough in a spirit of love and respect. I am saddened by his dismissive reply.”
She added, “This is not a matter that can simply be 'put behind us', because it relates to the very nature of Christianity and its role in our society.”
The letter states that the cathedral authorities gave the Corporation permission to clean the area around the cathedral and that police removed people from the steps to allow this to happen.
It goes on to say, “We understand that they [the occupiers] were reminded of this by police early in the course of the removal”. In response, Christianity Uncut have pointed out that no such public statement was made.
Sam Walton said, “Michael Colclough’s letter, perhaps unwittingly, paints an inaccurate picture of events on the cathedral steps on 28 February. The police made no public statement about temporary removal. We were threatened with arrest, with no suggestion that we could shortly return.”
The five consider that they may have been removed from the steps unlawfully. Walton explained that “any court considering this question would need a clear statement from the cathedral authorities about their communication with the police and the Corporation”.
In response to Michael Colclough's comments about proclaiming the Gospel, Siobhan Grimes said, “The Good News of God's love for people cannot be separated from questions of politics and economics, which are about how people relate to each other.”
She added, “We are concerned by anything that prevents Christians from standing in solidarity with those who are resisting sinful economic structures and abusive power.”