St Paul's cathedral chancellor quits over London protests

27th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

A senior official at St Paul's Cathedral in London resigned on Thursday amid a dispute over the handling of anti-capitalist protesters camped outside the landmark church.

Canon Giles Fraser, the chancellor of St Paul's and the third most senior official at the cathedral in the heart of the British capital's financial district, said he was quitting with "great regret and sadness".

Reports said he was sympathetic to the protest camp and disagreed with a decision last week to close the cathedral over health and safety issues caused by the "Occupy LSX (London Stock Exchange)" protest.

"It is with great regret and sadness that I have handed in my notice at St Paul's Cathedral," Fraser said in a posting on Twitter.

A spokesman for St Paul's confirmed that Fraser, who took up the post in May 2009, had resigned and said colleagues were "disappointed."

Fraser said he was happy for the demonstrators to stay when they first set up their camp and refused to agree to the use of force to remove the protesters, the BBC reported.

The former philosophy lecturer also reportedly opposed taking legal action against the protesters, which St Paul's and London authorities are considering.

More than 200 activists inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States have been occupying a paved area in front of St Paul's for nearly two weeks.

The London protest movement said it was "deeply moved" to hear that Fraser had resigned, adding that the thoughts of its members were with him.

"From the moment, Occupy London arrived at St Pauls Churchyard he respected our right to protest and defended it," it said in a statement on its website.

"For that we are very grateful, as he ensured that St Pauls could be a sanctuary for us and that no violence could take place against peaceful protesters with a legitimate cause."

Cathedral authorities had said on Wednesday that they were "optimistic" they could re-open the church on Friday after the protesters changed the layout of their camp.

It is the first time St Paul's has closed since World War II, when its dome served as a symbol of Londoners' defiance in the face of German bombs.

Protests inspired by Occupy Wall Street and Spain's "Indignants" took place in 80 countries on October 15, some of which turned violent, particularly in Rome, where 135 people were injured.

© 2011 AFP

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