Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.
A top cleric at the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral in London resigned Thursday in support of the "Occupy" protests taking place in front of his church.
Giles Fraser, the church’s canon chancellor, announced via Twitter that he was stepping down "with great regret and sadness." He had split with church leaders over demonstrators’ right to camp out in front of the cathedral as part of the Occupy London Stock Exchange protests, one of several offshoots of New York’s Occupy Wall Street protests that have sprung up around the world.
Fraser backed the protesters, asking police to leave them alone when they first congregated on the cathedral steps two weeks ago. But St. Paul’s’ dean, Graeme Knowles, closed the church on Friday, citing safety concerns, and has asked the protesters to leave. According to CNN, he said the cathedral is consulting lawyers on possible legal measures to evict the demonstrators.
Fraser told the Guardian his conscience dictated that he resign rather than participate in such evictions. "I cannot support using violence to ask people to clear off the land," he said. "It is not about my sympathies or what I believe about the camp. I support the right to protest and in a perfect world we could have negotiated. But our legal advice was that this would have implied consent."
His move has prompted an outpouring of appreciation from the demonstrators. "The fact that he is standing by his values, shown through his resignation, is really so important to us," one told the Telegraph. "We have a lot of respect for him. He's an honorable man."
Fraser seems to be an interesting figure. The Guardian has a profile that describes the 47-year-old cleric as “bald, jovial, worldly, ferociously bright but genial towards those within the fractious Church of England who disagree with him… .”
A protest organizer told Time he can’t believe safety is the church’s real motivation for opposing the demonstrations, since they have cooperated with fire officials’ requests to make sure they’re not a hazard.