FOUR WOMEN chained themselves to the base of the pulpit in St Paul’s Cathedral in the City of London last Saturday, interrupting an evensong service to mark the anniversary of the start of the Occupy encampment outside the cathedral last year.
Tanya Paton of Occupy Faith had been invited to read a prayer at the service. When she finished the four women – Siobhan Grimes, Josie Reid, Tammy Semede and Alison Playford – got up and chained themselves to the base of the pulpit.
They announced a list of grievances against the cathedral and its relations with the neighbouring London Stock Exchange, accusing the cathedral authorities of colluding with banks and failing to help the poor.
"In the fight for economic justice Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple, but you invited them in and instead evicted us," shouted Alison Playford.
"Your collusion with the City of London Corporation led to our violent eviction on your doorstep. You testified against us, which acted to uphold injustice and inequality that is growing by the day. St Paul's Cathedral you must stand up and be counted at this great trial of history."
Activists from Christianity Uncut held a simultaneous protest outside, unfurling a large banner which called for St Paul's to "Throw the money changers out of the temple".
Inside the cathedral the protesters then read out passages from the Bible. After that they allowed the service to continue as the women, including Josie Reid who uses a wheelchair, remained chained to the ornate, carved pulpit under St Paul’s famous dome.
The evensong congregation looked on as Dean of St Paul’s the Very Reverend Dr David Ison led the service as normal, as he referred to the “captive audience” at his feet.
Rod Olukoya, who works for a TV company based near the cathedral, was among the regular congregation of around 200.
He said: “I thought it was part of the service. There was no commotion and no running about. It was all very calm.”
Once the service had ended, the Dean spoke to the protesters asking them to engage in talks. He said they had been “discourteous” to interrupt the service, but added that he wanted to see the cathedral working together with groups including Occupy to help change people’s lives.
After the demonstration Alison Playford told the press: “We weren’t sure how it would go. We were terrified before it started and then once we got there we felt it was really positive direct action.”
Josie Reid, said: “I have seen what the austerity that’s been forced on the people of this country has been doing to the disabled and the needy. The disabled and needy are paying for the crisis they did not create.
“I know if Jesus was walking on the earth today he would be with us. He was fairly radical. He was not afraid to stand up and speak out. And this is what we want our Church leaders to do.”
The retiring Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, last year was prompted by the four-month occupation of Paternoster Square by anti-capitalist protesters to condemn the extreme greed of the high-flying capitalists who make themselves vast fortunes out of the impoverishment and misery of working people around the world.
Nevertheless the Church of England has investments in hedge funds and is also guilty of profiteering.
The women brought their successful demonstration to a peaceful conclusion after seven hours.
Siobhan Grimes, who works for an environmental charity, said: "I chained myself to the pulpit in St Paul's Cathedral in protest about women's economic inequality.
"As a Christian, I know that my faith teaches through the example of Christ's radical action to protect the poorest and most vulnerable members of society."