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Occupy Sheffield set up on Saturday 5th November on the Cathedral Forecourt.  Since then the camp has faced many unforeseen challenges from many different angles.

It is somewhat regrettable that the correspondence received from Cathedral Management should be made public however the group feel it important that the congregation of the Cathedral – many of whom are vocal supporters of the Occupation – and the wider public, should be made aware of the confrontational approach of the Cathedral, who continue to question the validity of the Occupation and to undermine its presence through exaggerated concerns about Health and Safety and other minutiae.

Please be in no doubt that the Health and Safety of all at the camp, and the cathedral staff and visitors, is a real concern which Occupy Sheffield takes seriously.

However, Occupy Sheffield would like to invite the Cathedral to join with us in confronting the serious issues that the Occupation is dealing with.  There is evidently a great deal of synergy between the goals of the Occupy Movement and those of the Christian church. Occupy Sheffield is confident more could be achieved by working together – specifically in relation to Sheffield’s homeless problem with which Occupy Sheffield is not only ‘up close and personal’, but for which the camp is actively providing welfare support on a 24/7 basis – something that not even the Archer Project (which Occupy Sheffield wholeheartedly supports) can offer.

It is a matter of some disappointment that the Cathedral seem intent to continue along an obstreperous and obstructive path, rather than embrace this opportunity to reaffirm the commitment of the Church to its core doctrine of seeking an equable and just society through courage, dialogue and action.

Occupy Sheffield urge members of the Cathedral’s clergy and congregation to join the movement and confront the inequalities of our society firm in the understanding that only by standing together can common goals be achieved.  The Cathedral is invited to acknowledge that their initial fears about the Occupation have been unrealised, and that now is the time to enter into a new phase of co-operation and dialogue.


Initial statement from the Cathedral

Below is the statement on behalf of the Cathedral’s governing body, the Cathedral Chapter on the first day (5th Nov) of Occupy Sheffield.

The protestors do not have the Cathedral’s permission to use the churchyard. The Cathedral does however respect the protestors’ right to make their voice heard. Some of what they are saying is very important.

For over twenty years the Cathedral has worked with partners throughout the city and region to give a voice to the homeless, the most vulnerable people in our community. It is our hope that the care the Cathedral Archer Project offers to many very needy people will not be impeded or reduced by the presence of protestors here.

The Cathedral remains open to visitors and for worship and prayer. The Cathedral Archer Project will also maintain its regular opening hours.

The Very Reverend Peter Bradley 5th November

Correspondence from the Cathedral

To follow are all emails received by Occupy Sheffield from the Cathedral to date:

From: Carl Hutton
Sent: 10 November 2011 23:42
To: info@occupysheffield.org.uk
Subject: Security / Guards on Duty on the Cathedral Forecourt / Church yard

Dear Occupy Sheffield Protestors

I am reliably informed that you currently have SIA licensed security guards patrolling the Cathedral Forecourt this evening which Occupy Sheffield do not have permission from Sheffield Cathedral to be on, in order to resolve various anti social behavior problems that you have encountered over the last few evenings.

Please can I draw your attention as a matter of urgency to the fact that the security guards are not insured to work on Cathedral land as we have not consented to their use as Occupy Sheffield are trespassing on Cathedral property.  Should there be an incident tonight requiring the physical intervention of one of the security guards, our understanding from the Police and our legal advisors is that they could be charged with assault.  The Cathedral made several attempts to contact the security company you are using this afternoon to make them aware of the significant risk they were placing members of staff in by working on Cathedral property, unfortunately despite our efforts our calls were not taken or returned.

In fairness to the security guards who you have contracted to undertake this work, can I please suggest you inform them immediately of this situation and the position that Occupy Sheffield have placed them in as not to do so places all participants of the Occupy Sheffield protest individually in a very vulnerable legal position should any incidents happen later in the evening.

I will raise this matter again tomorrow afternoon at a meeting arranged with representatives of Occupy Sheffield.

Carl Hutton

General  Manager

Subject: Sheffield Cathedral – Areas of concern
Date: Sat, 12 Nov 2011 16:29:59 +0000
From: Carl Hutton
To: info@occupysheffield.org.uk

Dear Occupy Sheffield Protestors

Following on from the dialogue meeting yesterday between representatives of the Cathedral and the Occupy Sheffield Movement, the Cathedral raised concerns over Occupy Sheffield requesting donations on Cathedral land and leafleting without an appropriate license, this morning Cathedral staff had to move 2 individuals who had set up a stall in front of the cathedral, clearly displaying Occupy Sheffield posters and propaganda on their stall whilst also distributing the Socialist Worker.

Prior to moving the individuals on, the Occupy Sheffield camp was approached so that a request for this activity to be stopped could be taken forward by Occupy Sheffield.  The response to this request was that the individuals concerned had nothing to do with Occupy Sheffield but were  related to the Socialist party.   The attitude of members in the camp to Cathedral representatives was described to me as hostile – again not ideal when such concerns had been raised in a meeting the day before to representatives of Occupy Sheffield.

After this dialogue the Cathedral staff moved on the individuals only to witness throughout the afternoon at least one of the individuals from the Socialist Party being in and around the camp for most of the afternoon.  As stated yesterday the Cathedral has no option but to take the view that individuals who are associating with Occupy Sheffield are part of Occupy Sheffield.  So we request again that no donations are asked for or taken on Cathedral land.

Separately we have also identified to members of the camp the unacceptable conditions of the site around the HMS Sheffield Memorial (including  tree) currently comprising of several pallets (also a fire hazard) a chained up bike and tarpaulin.  This memorial is a focus for activity around Remembrance Sunday and has left a member of the public who visits the memorial every year in distress this afternoon.   Please sort this immediately so further upset is not caused to other members of the local community who the Cathedral serves on a daily basis.  This concern was raised with representatives of Occupy Sheffield yesterday, but since this meeting the condition of the camp as a whole and specifically the area around the memorial has quickly deteriorated to unacceptable levels.

We are repeatedly drawing your attention to the fact that you do not have permission and you have no invitation to use our land for your protest.  Despite this we are trying to show a degree of tolerance to your activities.  Incidents such as today’s issue undermines our stance and your stated objective not to hinder the Cathedral in its work.

Please raise these matters at your next General Assembly.

Carl Hutton

General  Manager

Subject: Sheffield Cathedral – Issues of concern
Date: Sun, 13 Nov 2011 13:58:17 +0000
From: Carl Hutton
To: info@occupysheffield.org.uk

Dear Occupy Sheffield Protestors

At the meeting  on Friday between representatives of Sheffield Cathedral and Occupy Sheffield, the Cathedral outlined a number of events taking place at the Cathedral over the coming weeks so that Occupy Sheffield were able to ensure that these events take place without interference.  In light of this dialogue it is unfortunate that the Cathedral only became aware of the intended performance of Billy Bragg on Cathedral land on this coming Tuesday via the internet rather than through the dialogue meeting.

With regards to the Billy Bragg performance on Tuesday we need clarification as to the health and safety measures Occupy Sheffield intend to have in place should a number of people arrive on the Cathedral Forecourt so that the safety of members of the public, members of the Occupy Sheffield, member of staff at Sheffield Cathedral and Billy Bragg are not put at risk on Cathedral land, land which you do not have permission to be on. For your information it is the Cathedrals understanding that legally each member of Occupy Sheffield would be individually liable should any incident be encountered in relation to the visit and performance  of Billy Bragg on Cathedral land when we have stated you do not have permission to occupy our land.

On a related matter,  the Cathedral outlined that one of the key criteria for the Cathedral to maintain its position of tolerance towards Occupy Sheffield was on the basis that certain health and safety matters were acknowledged and addressed, these included the need for Occupy Sheffield not to have any lit fires on site.  Last night at 11.40pm several members of the Cathedral team including myself saw a lit fire being used by Occupy Sheffield on the encampment, please stop this practice immediately as otherwise the Cathedral will be required to review its current tolerant approach to dealing with Occupy Sheffield.

Finally the Cathedral has stated that other key criteria for the Cathedrals continued tolerance towards Occupy Sheffield to be maintained include the stipulation that no users of the Cathedral be they staff, clergy, the congregation or visitors are verbally or physically abused.  So far there is no suggestion this has happened.  However we are repeatedly receiving information with regards incidents within the camp which do not reflect well on Occupy Sheffield with regards the respect you are showing each other within the campsite which as you are illegally on our land we have to draw to your attention. For example last night I witnessed a significant altercation within your camp in full view of a number of members of the public which seemed to include different factions your the camp having to restrain two individuals from attacking each other.  The result of this unsavory incident will be me consulting with colleagues at the Cathedral on Monday as to whether a further stipulation is that members of Occupy Sheffield do not verbally abuse or physically abuse one another in order for the Cathedral to maintain its position of tolerance.  I will also be raising this matter with the Police.

Carl Hutton

General  Manager

Reply to the Cathedral

Subject: Re: Sheffield Cathedral – Issues of concern
Date: Mon, 14 Nov 2011 09:40:16 +0000
From: Occupy Sheffield info@occupysheffield.org.uk
To: Carl Hutton

Please be in no doubt that the Health and Safety issues you noticed have already been dealt with and we will be sharing our H&S plan for Billy Bragg on Tuesday with yourselves after it has been agreed with the relevant authorities. We will be in contact with you Monday afternoon to ascertain any specific H&S requirements, over and above the normal.

We feel it is important to address the final point in your letter, where you suggest that ‘members of Occupy Sheffield do not verbally abuse or physically abuse one another in order for the Cathedral to maintain its position of tolerance’. Firstly, the condition of respect and nonviolence is fundamental to this movement, but is also already in our code of conduct.

Secondly, Occupy Sheffield is an open camp, and we feel it our moral duty to welcome all comers (with some limitations – fascist groups are not welcome), this means welcoming people who will potentially behave badly. We have become a magnet, not only for well-meaning, well-behaved protestors, but also for troubled people who frequently have drug and behavioural issues. We feel that for the Cathedral to enact the implied threat to “withdraw its position of tolerance” for Occupy Sheffield on the basis of the behaviour of a minority, is no different to the Cathedral “withdrawing its position of tolerance” for those people directly. We are doing our utmost to uphold our obligation to the most needy in society, whilst at the same time continuing to push forward our main goal of raising awareness of the crisis of exaggerated riches for the few, and economic frustration for the many. Our approach is open and consensual, and we welcome your ideas as to how we should best deal with this element, during the night-time, overnight and weekends when the Archer Project is closed.

Occupy Sheffield stands firmly in the belief that it was correct to start the camp, and the camp will remain for as long as possible. It is clear from the Occupations world-wide that there is a genuine groundswell of opinion that we must orient our society away from the individualistic, grab-it-while-you-can mentality, and Occupy Sheffield is providing the forum for those discussions.

But we are also a magnet for the sick, the abused and the fallen, and we cannot, and we will not turn our backs on these people.

We ask only that you stand with us for a better world.

Occupy Sheffield