Occupy LSX - The St Paul's Party is Over...?

“You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately...Depart I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

These words are attributed to Oliver Cromwell for a speech that he made on 20 April 1653 to the Rump Parliament, but equally could symbolise the cry of the City of London Corporation before they trooped to the Court of Appeal to ask the Court to reject the appeal against eviction by the Occupy LSX Movement, who have been camped in the precincts of St Paul’s Cathedral since 15 October last year.


Occupy Camp 24 Feb 2012, with West front of St Paul's behind
 

To the articulated relief of the Corporation, and the quieter relief of the Cathedral authorities,  peeping from behind the Corporation and mired in the dichotomy between Christian values and commercial interests (reduced visitor income), the Court, led by the Master of the Rolls Lord Justice Neuburger,  last week granted the Corporation’s plea and ordered the eviction of the camp.

For those who have not closely followed the story, Occupy LSX may be a confusing term, and if it is then explained that LSX signifies London Stock Exchange, that will only compound the confusion.

The London Stock Exchange sits unobtrusively in Paternoster Square, adjacent to the Cathedral. The Square is a development that is either harmoniously synergistic with the ancient building, or is a piece of Neo-Classical architectural kitsch, according to whether your design tastes are or are not in tune with HRH Prince Charles

Paternoster Square, and LSX within it, were the ostensible targets of Occupy. I say ostensible, as the movement’s savvy on legal issues make you wonder how they could not be aware that the Square is in private ownership – Mitsubishi Estates – and that Mitsubishi would move very quickly to bar entry to the Square. This is exactly what they did on 15 October when Occupy moved into the area. In a future blog I will describe the events of the day – I happened to be there on guided walk duty.


Paternoster Square, 24 Feb 2012 - Security still in place
 

So would it be conspiracy theory to suspect that Occupy knew that it would end up by the side of St Paul’s and causing reactive alarm amongst church authorities whose management response would have got little more than a B Minus?

Back to the courts. Their Lordships had a testing case to decide. You would think that if a group of people set up tents in a public area in your part of the world, it would be a cut and dried issue to get rid of them.

But this is to disregard the impact of the Human Rights Act 1998, and the Court of Appeal had to decide whether the trial judge had correctly weighed up the interests of Occupy (freedom of expression; freedom of assembly) against freedom of conscience (right to worship) and the more general right of the public to go about its business. In its judgement the Court backed the trial judge.

Now there is the small matter of eviction. On Friday 24 February Occupy were still firmly in place, displaying defiant calls for the City of London Corporation to be abolished, with the separate door to the Cathedral Crypt remaining closed except for use as an emergency escape.


24 Feb 2012 - A blunt message to the City of London Corporation
 
24 Feb 2012  - Access Fire Brigade only
 

Watch this space. And there is a separate Occupy Finsbury Square camp on the edge of the City, which seems to be still going strong. The clue, though, is edge of the City; Finsbury Square is in the London Borough of Islington, and as of the May 2010 Elections has 35 Labour, and 13 Liberal Democrat, Councillors.


Occupy Finsbury Square Camp
 

Although the City of London Corporation would assert that its Councillors (known as Common Councilmen) do not function on party political grounds, it would not be controversial to suggest that the underlying politics of the City are rather different to those of its Islington neighbours.

The author is a qualified City of London, City of Westminster and National Trust Guide, and a former law firm partner, who runs walking tours in the City and in Westminster. See tabs for details. On Thursday, 5th April he is running London Inside & Outside the Law, a tour of Legal London, starting at 3pm. To book and to find out starting point, contact Colin at colinwalkslondon@aol.com

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