Canon of St. Paul’s Resigns Over Bid to Move Protestors

The Canon Chancellor of St. Pauls Cathedral in London announced his resignation on Thursday morning in protest against legal action being taken against protestors camped outside the cathedral by the Corporation of London and church authorities.

Occupy protests in London
Ted Kemp |
Occupy protests in London

Giles Fraser, who has been Canon Chancellor of St. Pauls Cathedral since 2009, used Twitter to announce his resignation. He tweeted simply: “It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St. Paul’s Cathedral.”

Fraser was a key figure in theinitial protest allowing the “Occupy the London Stock Exchange” protest group to camp to the side of the cathedral when the police blocked their access to the adjacent Paternoster Square on October 15.

He also called for police to scale down their initial presence, which had included using controversial “kettling” tactics—the forced bottling of crowds into a confined area—last seen during the G20 protests in the City of London in 2009.

However, a week later the cathedral was forced to close for the first time since the Second World War. The reason given for the closure was the fear that the camp posed a fire safety hazard as well as a public health hazard. The cathedral, which is part of the Church of England, has also claimed that it has been losing around £2,000 a day ($3,200) in public donations since the camp was set up.

Initially the Bishop of London, the Right Reverend Richard Chartres, and the Dean of St. Paul’s, the Right Reverend Graeme Knowles, asked protestors to leave the site voluntarily following the closure of the Cathedral.

On Wednesday, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, also called on the protestors to leave the site, telling them, “With the greatest respect to their point of view, they have made it.” But protestors have refused to leave the area, vowing to stay until the New Year.

Meanwhile, Knowles said on Wednesday that he was optimistic the Cathedral would be able to reopen to the public on Friday afternoon following significant changes to the layout of the protestors campsite.

The Dean said the Cathedral was continuing to "take legal advice on a range of options including court action. Chapter very much hopes that we will achieve a peaceful solution.”

On Friday, the City of London Corporation's planning committee is due to hear legal advice and decide whether to take court action against the protestors.

A statement released on behalf of the protestors stated: "We are deeply moved to hear that Giles Fraser has resigned. He is man of great personal integrity and our thoughts are with him.

"From the moment, Occupy London arrived at St. Paul’s Churchyard he respected our right to protest and defended it.

"For that we are very grateful, as he ensured that St Paul’s could be a sanctuary for us and that no violence could take place against peaceful protesters with a legitimate cause – challenging and tackling social and economic injustice in London, the UK and beyond."

A statement released on behalf of the cathedral stated: "Giles has brought a unique contribution to the life and ministry of St Paul’s and we will be very sorry to see him go.

"He has developed the work of the St Paul’s Institute and has raised the profile of our work in the City. We are obviously disappointed that he is not able to continue to his work with Chapter during these challenging days. We will miss his humour and humanity and wish Giles and his family every good wish into the future.”

The post of Canon Chancellor is a Crown appointment. The process to appoint Canon Fraser’s successor will begin shortly.