Landmark London locations like St Paul’s Cathedral should be no place for protest camps, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday, condemning anti-capitalist demonstrators who have pitched their tents there.
There are about 200 tents on the cobbled stones close to St Paul’s, the 17th century church at the heart of London’s financial center. The protesters were blocked from the nearby London Stock Exchange last month.
“The idea of establishing tents in the middle of a city I don’t feel is particularly constructive,” Cameron said.
“I don’t think it’s particularly constructive in Parliament Square and I don’t think it’s particularly constructive in St Paul’s,” Cameron told a parliamentary committee.
Legislators asked Cameron if the protesters, who have set up a makeshift library, tea bar and lecture room in the shadow of the cathedral, were an example of his “Big Society” in action.
NO COMMON CAUSE
Cameron, a Conservative who took office in May last year, has spoken frequently of his desire for communities to take on more responsibility as his coalition rolls back the state, but declined the invitation to make common cause with protesters inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in the US.
“Protest is, to me, a separate issue,” Cameron said.
“It is certainly a right that people have, but I have got this rather quaint view that you shouldn’t be able to erect tents all over the place,” he said.
“I think protesting is something you, on the whole, should do on two feet rather than lying down — in some cases in a fairly comatose state,” Cameron added.
The British authorities have fought a decade-long battle to try to force anti-war protesters to leave Parliament Square.
They have largely succeeded, but a handful of tents remain on the pavement opposite parliament.
The protests have put the Church of England in a quandary as to how to respond and two senior members of the clergy have resigned from the hierarchy at St Paul’s over their handling of the issue.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the Church of England, last week backed Vatican calls for sweeping reforms of the world economic system.
About 4,000 police were expected to be on duty yesterday when students were set to take to the streets close to the cathedral to protest against state spending cuts and higher university fees.