(Updates with protester comment from paragraph four.)
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- St Paul’s Cathedral, Christopher Wren’s 17th century masterpiece, may be forced to close as a growing number of protesters against economic inequality fill its churchyard and deter visitors, the church said.
“The increased scale and nature of the protest camp is such that to act safely and responsibly the cathedral must now review the extent to which it can remain open for the many thousands coming this week as worshippers, visitors and in school parties,” Graeme Knowles, the cathedral’s dean and seven other leaders said in a statement. “Is it now time for the protest camp to leave? The consequences of a decision to close St Paul’s cannot be taken lightly.”
Anti-Wall Street demonstrations began in New York last month, with about 6,000 people gathering in Times Square for what organizers called a “global day of action against Wall Street greed” on Oct. 15. The protests then spread to Europe and Asia, with more than 100 people injured in Rome after as many as 200,000 people gathered, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported.
“We’re trying to make sure our presence here doesn’t disrupt their business,” said Catherine Garrity, a protester who’s 26-year-old self-employed artist from London. “The statement they made, I think, is very carefully worded; they are pointing out there’s been a huge influx of people in this area which will cause logistical issues.”
‘Cups of Tea’
Demonstrators gathered in London from Oct. 15, pitching about 100 tents in the square surrounding the cathedral. The group, calling itself Occupy London Stock Exchange, was blocked by police from approaching the LSE, which is about 100 yards from the campsite.
The police presence may have harmed the church’s revenue from visitors during the weekend, Garrity said. Protesters have kept away from exits and from the cathedral steps, she said, while police have talked with the campers and visited their kitchen for cups of tea.
“St Paul’s Cathedral stated on Monday that it was still trying to provide worship and welcome to all in spite of the presence of the protest camp in the churchyard,” the church statement said.
“St Paul’s asked everyone to respect this need and to acknowledge the risk to the life of the cathedral posed by the current situation.”
The London demonstrators said on Monday that they opposed bailing out banks, public expenditure cuts, arms dealing, corporate profits, global oppression and war, while supporting genuinely independent regulators and “authentic” global equality.
--Editors: Francis Harris, Jon Menon
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