Saturday, 22 October 2011

St Paul's - Forgive us our trespasses

The doors of St Paul's are closed today, just like it says in the news. That makes the steps and forecourt into a fantastic natural amphitheatre, with the massive corinthian columns lending their imposing presence to the event. The protesters are making good use of the location, although most likely everyone would have been happier if that was not at the expense of closing down the cathedral. This afternoon a succession of speakers made their points from a microphone set up by the Queen Victoria monument, to an audience sitting on the cobblestones, and more people standing around them and all over the steps. A sizeable turnout, with more people arriving by bus, Tube and on Boris bikes, but not overcrowded. The weather is fine and everyone seems cheerful, even the police.

The Portland stone colonnade of the Paternoster Square buildings opposite has been taken over as a poster wall, with the piers and columns covered in imaginative printed and handmade posters - more arty satire than political rant. There's no pasting, everything is carefully taped to the stone, some with printed tapes reading 'Capitalism means War' and 'Another World is Possible'. One of my favourites was just plain stencilled lettering reading 'More to life than money', with the 'O's drawn as bombs.

Organisation is better than it was earlier in the week. A busy kitchen is handing out free meals, and they have lots of boxes of apples. Bins are labelled with instructions for recycling and sorting, and there was a council rubbish collection in progress. Portable toilets, although only two of them, are locked until the public ones close for the night. A fenced-off fire escape route for the cathedral is presumably now redundant but still kept clear. Some bigger tents have appeared but there is still plenty of room to walk through the site. No litter and no vandalism to be seen. This does affect local businesses though - the staff in Paul, the French sandwich chain, say that their takings are down because they usually have tables outside and there isn't enough room now. Policing remains low key: Paternoster Square is fenced off and both police and security guards are making sure no-one gets in, but there are no police lines, just pairs of officers walking around in hi-viz uniform.

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