Occupy London protesters free themselves from St Paul’s Cathedral pulpit

Four women who chained themselves to the pulpit of St Paul’s cathedral cut through the bolts after six hours on the advice of police, avoiding arrest last night.

The women wrapped chains around their waists after a prayer that Church officials had invited them to give. One, Josie Reid, chained herself to her wheelchair.

The action came on the anniversary of the Occupy protest last year when protesters took over the square outside.

One of the protesters from the Occupy Faith group, Siobhan Grimes, 25, a charity worker, said she hoped a promised meeting with the Dean of the cathedral would materialise: “We discussed with him how I was one of the people removed from in front of St Paul’s after Occupy [last year]. I hope the next step is followed up this time. I do have real hope that the Church can use our voice to effect real change.”

The protesters interrupted a wreath-laying for a soldier, who has not been named. The Very Rev Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, described how he was taking an evening prayer service when “four young women dressed in white” chained themselves to the structure.

Symon Hill, a spokesman for the group Christianity Uncut, said they were “very sorry”. “We had no intention of disturbing the remembrance of the dead. We are sorry, and had no intention of disrupting worship.”

The women were named as Siobhan Grimes, Tammy Samede, Alison Playford and Josie Reid. Miss Grimes and Miss Samede are Anglicans who worshipped at the cathedral regularly before making the protest.

Christianity Uncut is an offshoot of the Occupy protest movement and the action came as the group marked the anniversary of its now-dismantled protest camp outside the cathedral.

Mr Hill added that he believed a “tokenising” prayer marking the anniversary led to the protest. “Some of us felt that was a rather tokenising response. After that prayer the women peacefully walked to the front and chained themselves to the pulpit. Christians should live out their worship in the acts they make every day.”

The Dean said he was leading a prayer when the women came up and started shouting. “I’m sorry they have decided to do this, which makes it hard for members of Occupy Faith, who have been working together with us on something which is respectful,” he said.

Occupy London released a statement which said it was collaborating with Christianity Uncut to call for the leadership of St Paul’s to “stop sitting on the fence and join the fight against rising inequality in the UK and beyond”.

Last year hundreds of people set up camp outside St Paul’s on Oct 15 after they were prevented from entering nearby Paternoster Square, where the London Stock Exchange is located, and remained there for four months.

The church, caught between the demonstrators and London’s finance industry, changed its stance on the camp several times. The camp was dismantled in February after the protesters lost a court battle with local authorities.

The women cut themselves free at around 10pm after City of London Police entered the cathedral, an Occupy spokesman said.

He said they had decided to cut themselves free after being warned by officers that they faced arrest.

“They have now left the cathedral. Some of the awareness-raising they wanted to do has been done. The Dean has also agreed to meet them and talk.’’

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