On Tuesday 7th December, just before representatives from Occupy London were due to meet the FSA’s CEO Hector Sants, the City of London Corporation delivered a set of documents to the legal team representing Occupy London Stock Exchange (OccupyLSX). These documents were released on the Corporation’s website. The established media was also alerted. These documents were the witness statement (dated 6th December) of the Registrar of St Paul’s Cathedral, Nicholas Cottam, together with supporting evidence, all of which will be contested at the High Court in the hearing that begins on 19th December.
Present at the FSA meeting were the Bishop of London Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, Robert Gordon of St Paul’s Institute and Ken Costa, former Vice-Chairman of UBS Investment Bank and Chairman of Lazard International. Indeed, they had brokered the meeting to bring the FSA and OccupyLSX together as part of the St Paul’s Initiative. Ken Costa described the Initiative as “an attempt to listen to public frustration and broker a dialogue between City and protesters and the wider public, concerned with connecting the financial with the ethical.”
The St Paul’s Initiative, now called “London Connection”, was announced at the same time the Cathedral formally withdrew its threat of legal action against Occupy London, while recognising the right of the City of London Corporation to take such action on Corporation land.
Since this date, representatives of OccupyLSX have been meeting regularly with the Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral and dialogue has been positive. While the developments with St Paul’s Initiative and the meetings with the Chapter were warmly welcomed by OccupyLSX, it is now obvious that senior people inside the Cathedral were preparing, in considerable detail, a witness statement in support of the City. Most of the concerns in those submissions have, in any case, already been dealt with. OccupyLSX’s barristers, John Cooper QC and Michael Paget will demonstrate those issues have been resolved already in the forthcoming trial in the High Court.
St Paul’s Cathedral has decided on an underhand strategy. Whilst it is not actually engaging in legal action – legal action that is likely to lead to the violent eviction they have consistently said they do not want to happen – it now fully supports the City’s legal action against OccupyLSX. The distinction has me searching for that proverbial cigarette paper. I have often written about the Cathedral from a position of distrust, whilst many of my fellow Occupationists have praised their stately advance towards what many Christian activists call the gospel imperative of financial justice. My political judgment of this establishment institution was correct. The reason the Cathedral initially backed off was the pressure they received from the worldwide Anglican Communion, who couldn’t stomach this iconic church turning its back on the poor. The righteous characters inside the Cathedral have resigned. The men left behind have taken the Devil’s coin. Now they want to spend it.
Here is a video of representatives of Occupy London’s press team below which comes a few minutes after the media asked them about the new legal documents. Decide for yourself.
The Cathedral is telling journalists that they would be willing to submit a witness statement for Occupy London’s defence case. The Chapter has been asked and OccupyLSX is currently awaiting its response. All other supportive witnesses have already filed their witness statements. We asked for everyone to submit them by Wednesday and, if they could not manage that, by Friday at the latest. Obviously we need time to read through them all before we decide which witnesses to call. With no favourable statement yet received from the Cathedral and the deadline for us to file our evidence at the High Court being tomorrow, it has become too late. Compare the Cathedral’s stately pace with that of the activists, many of whom are poor and currently live in tents on London’s freezing streets; they have all got their support to Occupy London’s legal team in time but the Cathedral has not managed it. Where there isn’t the will, there seems to be the deceitful press release to fill the gap. The gap between the reality the 99% live in and the privileged world the Church of England lives in.