Occupy London wins over church; scares Canary Wharf

By COTO Report

When St Paul’s Cathedral threatened litigation against occupiers, it drew bad publicity and backed down. But Canary Wharf Plc., the business and commercial estate that is private property and home to the European headquarters of many of the world’s biggest banks including Barclays, HSBC, Citigroup and Credit Suisse, won a court injunction to keep all protesters off its property.

Team Treehugger reports:

Occupy London, which is taking place mainly in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, has been on a roller coaster ride.

In the past week, three senior St. Paul’s Cathedral officials have quit, eviction has been threatened and withdrawn and now the Bishop of London supports their stay. How did it all go so wrong and then so right?

First the Canon of St. Paul’s, Giles Fraser resigned last week. He had publicly stated to the protesters that they could stay on the grounds in front of the Church. Then the Church threatened to take legal action to remove the 220 tents in the encampment, so he quit. Then the Dean, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, resigned because it had been his (bad) idea to close the church for “health and safety” reasons last week. It was the first time that the Church had been closed since World War II and things looked really bad for the Church, in the public’s eyes.

The Church threatened immediate legal action to evict the protesters. The lawyers were lined up: Occupy London had a prominent lawyer who had agreed to argue their case for free.

Then the Church withdrew the threat of legal action. Embarrassed by the uproar in response to this suggestion, they backed down and the Bishop of London has now stated that “the symbolism of the closed door was the wrong symbol.” The Bishop has also asked a former investment banker to help “reconnect the financial with the ethical.”

In the meantime, the campaign Occupy London continues and has opened another branch near the Tate Modern museum, far from the action in the central part of London.

As for the camp itself, reports vary. Newspapers on the right are reporting that the atmosphere has deteriorated, with lots of sex and drugs, whilst The Guardian is delighted that celebrities such as Vivienne Westwood have visited.

The sad part is that the whole focus on the important issues has been sidelined in the face of the drama between the church and the organizers. The two sides have now pledged to work together with the Bishop calling the activists “people with admirable passion as well as people in some distress.” The activists have agreed to possibly reduce the size of the camp and limit their impact on the cathedral during busy times.

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From Occupy London on Canary Wharf:

Occupy London was intrigued to learn this morning [Nov. 3] that Canary Wharf Group plc has obtained a high court injunction preventing “any persons unknown remaining on the Canary Wharf estate in connection to protest action.” We understand that this court order will remain in place indefinitely.

We would like to take this opportunity to reassure Canary Wharf Group plc.

Occupy London has visited Canary Wharf on two separate occasions over the course of the occupation to date, organising public debates as part of its Tent City University about the state of our economic system with speakers from across the political spectrum, including James Meadway of the New Economics Foundation and Jonathan Portes, a former advisor to Gordon Brown.

On our visits to Canary Wharf, we have found it to be an absurdly over-securitised place, lacking all social amenities, save those of work and consumerism. Like much of London, Canary Wharf is privately owned, but its character is the result of a deliberate attempt to create a “public space” in which the public is not welcome.

Over the course of this week, Occupy London has engaged in productive discussion with St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London Corporation, both of whom have recognised the vital role free speech and political participation play in a democratic society. We have conducted ourselves with order and dignity throughout, as has been recognised by all sides. Like their counterparts on Paternoster Square, the owners of Canary Wharf appear to be deeply afraid of legitimate debate: it is worth asking why this is so.

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Financial Times reported:

About 50 activists attended a ‘teach out’ in Canary Wharf on Thursday morning [Oct. 20] to discuss the 25th anniversary of the Big Bang of financial deregulation.  Speakers included Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and former chief economist at the Cabinet Office, and James Meadway from the New Economic Forum, a think-tank.

Mr Portes said that the Big Bang of deregulation was not all bad as it got rid of the old boys network in the city, but it had some damaging consequences. He said that the financial sector needed to become more geared towards serving the productive elements of capitalism rather than being a driver of growth all by itself.

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