London protesters bed in for second night

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Several hundred anti-capitalism protesters maintained a vigil outside St Paul's Cathedral in London's financial district Sunday as they prepared to spend a second night under canvas.

An estimated 250 people camped Saturday night outside the famous landmark, which is just metres (yards) away from the London Stock Exchange.

Around 500 were occupying the protest site by dusk Sunday, but with only around 70 tents still pitched, that number looked set to dwindle.

The demonstration was greatly reduced from Saturday, when an estimated 2,000-3,000 people had descended to protest against corporate greed and government cutbacks.

"There's still a presence down there from both sides," a Scotland Yard spokesman told AFP on Sunday, when asked about the number of protesters and police currently in the area.

He declined to comment on whether the demonstration would be cleared in time for the Monday morning rush-hour.

Protester Roy Alexander, 39, expressed his gratitude to the church for allowing the demonstration to continue.

"We've drawn up a thank you card, thanking the cathedral for their support and for letting us be here," he said.

"The fact that they actually asked the police to leave the steps, we're really grateful about that."

Eight arrests were made on Saturday for a variety of offences -- four arrests for assault on police, two for public order offences and one for violent disorder.

Organisers in a group calling itself OccupyLSX -- or Occupy London Stock Exchange -- had won strong support via social networking websites Facebook and Twitter.

The police had cordoned off nearby Paternoster Square, which is where the London Stock Exchange building is located.

The demonstration was part of a global day of protest that saw rallies in 951 cities in 80 countries and resulted in clashes at demonstrations in New York and Rome.

Meanwhile on Sunday, all services seemed to have proceeded as normal at St Paul's cathedral.

"I don't have a problem with people being out here and expressing their right to protest," a clergyman told the channel.

Spyro Van Leemnen, a supporter of OccupyLSX, spent the night camped outside St Paul's.

"There are about 100 tents here -- in the churchyard, on the steps, and in between St Paul's and Paternoster Square," he said.

"There are still a lot of police here but it's all very peaceful," added the 27-year-old, who is originally from Greece.

London's police were severely criticised for being caught out by urban rioting in August and on Saturday appeared to be taking no chances and deploying in force.

The Metropolitan Police described Saturday's protest as largely calm and orderly and has urged demonstrators to leave the area.

© 2011 AFP

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