London protesters and church in harmony at Christmas
Anti-capitalist protesters camped outside London's St Paul's Cathedral on Saturday prepared to ring in Christmas along with the church as previous squabbles were put firmly to one side.
Spirits within the Occupy Londoon camp were "perfect" after a High Court judge hearing the case for their removal said Friday he would not reach a verdict until next year.
The protesters and the Church of England (CoE) have not always sung from the same hymn sheet, but the two camps have now found a common message.
Worshippers filing out of St Paul's after a Christmas Eve carol service largely ignored the rag-tag collection of tents on the iconic cathedral's doorstep, but protesters spoke of a new-found bond with the clergy.
"We're working together very well," demonstrator Michael Bell told AFP.
"They performed a service for us on the steps with the clergy singing as the choir," he added. "I'm not religious at all, but I really enjoyed it and so did other people who were there.
"They invited us to Midnight Mass and I will most certainly be attending."
Bell added that their shared values of "community and supporting one another" resonated particularly strongly at Christmas, and explained there had been a spike in numbers of people visiting to pledge support over the festive period.
Also resonating strongly were the booming bass and distorted guitars that entertained a handful of party-minded campers late Saturday, offering a stark contrast to the angelic melodies performed at the earlier church carol service.
On top of impromptu live music events, Occupy London also plans a New Year's Eve concert, a special performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and ukulele jamming.
One protester, who wished not to be named, said the "vibe was perfect" after judge Keith Lindblom announced he would not rule on an eviction request from The City of London Corporation -- the local authority in London's financial district -- before January 11.
"It'll take months," the protester predicted. "We're going to stay here until March or April."
Those involved in the case were "all over the place" with happiness, according to Bell.
Up to 200 demonstrators are based at the makeshift camp, which sprang up on October 15 in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street action in New York.
David Forsdick, the counsel for the City of London Corporation, called on Lindblom to issue immediate eviction orders, saying the camp had become a "magnet" for crime, drunks and drug addicts.
The accusations "didn't surprise us," said the unnamed demonstrator, adding that Lindblom had been to the site himself and found no evidence to support the claims.
If eviction orders are issued, demonstrators said they would remain until forcibly removed, and then would "move together, somewhere else."
© 2011 AFP