The Bishop of London today backed legal measures that could lead to anti-capitalist demonstrators being evicted from their camp outside St Paul’s.
The Right Reverend Dr Richard Chartres told a crowd of hundreds on the steps of the cathedral that “nobody wants to see violence”, including the police.
Later, he said he believed legal measures would be “prudent” and rejected protesters’ claims that violence would be an inevitable if an eviction notice was served.
St Paul’s and the City of London Corporation announced on Friday that they would try to gain separate High Court injunctions in order to evict members of the 200-tent Occupy London camp.
The cathedral re-opened on Friday after being closed for a week, the first time its doors were shut since the Second World War.
“I have spoken to the police and there is absolutely no use for a violent confrontation,” said the Bishop.
“I do not think we are on the inevitable road to violence.
“Getting the legal situation clear is probably a sensible precautionary measure.
“We do not know what is going to happen, the camp could be taken over by people who are very different from the ones who are in charge at the moment.
“I think it is a prudent measure.”
Beforehand, Dr Chartres spoke alongside the Dean of St Paul’s, Reverend Graeme Knowles, to a crowd of demonstrators, some wearing Guy Fawkes-style masks, media and passers-by.
He said Rev Knowles had assured him that a controversially delayed St Paul’s Institute report on business ethics in the City would be published, but he did not know when.
The report looks into the issues of bumper bonuses and high salaries and is based on a survey of 500 City workers taken in August.
In an open question and answer session with demonstrators, Rev Knowles was asked whether the Chapter of St Paul’s had been put under pressure by City interests on the cathedral’s board of trustees.
Responding, he said: “No pressure whatsoever has been put on the Chapter in any way whatsoever.
“They are adults with minds of their own.”
The Bishop also said the voice of former Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Giles Fraser “remains very important”, despite his resignation last week.
Reaction amongst the protesters to the Bishop’s words was mixed.
Mark Weaver, 30, from Leeds, chaired the question and answer session with the clerics.
“I think if you are in our position and you are worried about being attacked by the police, very very definite answers is what you want to hear,” he said.
George Barda, 35, remained defiant.
“I am an absolute believer in non-violence but I am not going to go of my own accord, I will only leave this site if I am removed physically,” he said.
The Londoner also said the camp was “here to stay” through legal battles that could take months.
But they did welcome offers from Dr Chartres and Rev Knowles to participate in dialogue “on neutral ground”.
Mr Barda said: “The longer he (Dr Chartres) comes to talk to us the more the moral necessity of these groups across the world will become clear.”
Mr Weaver said he hoped dialogue would lead to further negotiations with St Paul’s and the City of London Corporation.
Both clerics, however, said the protesters had to modify their approach.
Addressing the throng, Rev Knowles said: “I find it quite difficult that you assume that I do not hold the same views as you simply because I don’t use the same methods of expressing my views as you.
“If dialogue will get us closer, then dialogue we will have.
“But I do think we have to allow ourselves space to do things in different ways as well as doing some things together.”
Dr Chartres agreed that a change of tack was needed.
“If we are going to make any changes we have got to move beyond slogans,” he said.
The campsite was set up on October 15 after activists organised on Facebook and gathered in the City to attempt an occupation of the London Stock Exchange in imitation of anti-capitalist protests on Wall Street.
When police cordoned off the entrances to the square where the stock exchange is located, protesters set up tents in front of the nearby cathedral instead.
The initial demonstration on October 15 was part of a worldwide day of action by anti-capitalists which led to violence in some cities, including Rome.