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Agence France-Presse

At Occupy London, St Pauls Protesters Vow to Stay On


The Occupy London supporters have refused to comply with a public request to move on - with some digging in at the foot of St Paul's and another group of around 100 people setting up camp on Finsbury Square. (AFP)

Anti-capitalist protesters outside St Paul's Cathedral in London vowed on Monday to stay there as long as they can despite claims that the historic church is losing £16,000 a day from closing the building to tourists.

A second site has been established on Finsbury Square in the city's financial district, but activists at St Paul's refuse to abandon their high-profile location.

Jo, 41, who took up position at the steps of the historic monument, said she is prepared to continue her battle indefinitely.

The unemployed activist, who has no fixed address and declined to give her surname, told the Press Association: "I'll be sitting here until there's real evidence the underlying system that allows a few to get very rich while others starve will change."

Sean, an 18-year-old civil servant who also withheld his surname, said he is prepared to camp at the cathedral on Christmas Day and beyond.

"We have the food and power to stay on and we are abiding by hygiene standards," he said.

Insisting the cathedral has closed needlessly, Sean added: "It would have been great to have kept them on-side. We are not against the church."

A spokesman for the cathedral said that businesses in the vicinity are also suffering because of the protest camp.

"There are a lot of people in that area who are also concerned about the timetable. A lot of independent traders are being affected and that whole part of London is not easily accessible."

"This is no longer just about St Paul's and it is not something we can deal with on our own."

A number of events at the cathedral, including an All Saints' Day service on November 1 and hundreds of special charity services in the run-up to Christmas, could be threatened by the action, he said.

St Paul's has been losing valuable funding since it shut its doors to visitors on Friday for the first time since the Second World War.

The Occupy London supporters have refused to comply with a public request to move on - with some digging in at the foot of St Paul's and another group of around 100 people setting up camp on Finsbury Square.

Chances that the protesters would move on looked even slimmer as a group of supporters from Cambridge called on mothers across the country to bring their children to see the site during half term.

They plan to visit the camp on Wednesday as part of a protest initiative dubbed Occupy Half Term.

The decision to shut the cathedral, which costs £20,000 per day to run and draws between 2,000 and 3,000 worshippers each Sunday, came after independent health and safety and fire officers said the protest camp raised public health issues and compromised fire exits.

Hundreds of tourists have been turned away from the cathedral since its closure, although the wedding of one couple went ahead on Saturday -- albeit with the bride coming in a side door rather than up the grand front steps.

"There hasn't been any disruption at all -- it's been wonderful, really amazing," beamed Natasha Ighodaro as she emerged with her new husband, Nick Cunningham, apparently unfazed by the banner declaring "capitalism is crisis".

Some of the couple's wedding guests expressed support for the activists, as did a number of the tourists, despite being unable to visit the cathedral.

"It is for a noble cause, it isn't agressive, it's a good way of protesting," said Dutch tourist Juul van der Au, 21. She added: "There are many others things to see in London -- we'll go to Westminster Abbey."

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