The Bishop of London has called on campaigners camped outside St Paul’s Cathedral to pack up and leave as the protest enters its 12th day.
The Church of England’s third most senior cleric, Richard Chartres, said it was time for the protesters to leave before the issues they set out to address become forgotten. Anti-capitalist protesters Occupy London Stock Exchange set up camp on October 15.
In a statement, the Bishop of London said: “This demonstration has undoubtedly raised a number of very important questions. The St Paul’s Institute has itself focused on the issue of executive pay and I am involved in ongoing discussions with City leaders about improving shareholder influence on excessive remuneration.
“Nevertheless, the time has come for the protesters to leave, before the camp’s presence threatens to eclipse entirely the issues that it was set up to address. The Dean and the Chapter, who are responsible for St Paul’s, have already made it clear that the protest should come to an end and I fully support that view.”
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The Bishop of London’s comments came as the protesters denied it was the case that 90 per cent of tents were left empty overnight as people returned to their own homes.
A statement from Occupy London Stock Exchange said: “This is simply not the case. We try to keep vacancy to a minimum and operate a sign in/sign out system to help ensure this happens. When someone knows they will not be staying overnight, they offer their tent to someone else.
“We are ordinary people with jobs and families. We are occupying in order to register our objection to being shut out of the political process. The fact that we are camping out here shows how seriously we take our right to participate and be heard.”
A spokesman for the City of London police refused to reveal the amount of protesters believed to be staying in the camp overnight, although he did confirm the police were using “a range of techniques” to monitor the protest.
Independently-commissioned pictures of the protests taken by thermal imaging cameras have been published in a number of newspapers which suggest several tents have been left unoccupied.
Former Conservative councillor for Wokingham Town Council Robin Smith said he was one of the part-time protesters at Occupy London Stock Exchange’s camp. Smith said: “I’d say about 25 per cent of the people go away and come back. There are lots of normal middle-class people turning up and helping but they have to go back home and some people come once and go away.”