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UPDATE: Sorry the last email on this page was originally one which had been previously published, it’s now been updated to the latest reply from the 17th November.

Following on from the previous published correspondence with the Cathedral, which has been picked up by The Sheffield Telegraph, there has been subsequent correspondence, which in the interests of transparency and openness is published below.

The following email was sent the the Cathedral and Occupy Sheffield by David Goss Vicar of St Aidan’s, Wheatley Hills, Doncaster, @DaviGoss on Twitter.

From: David Goss
Date: Wed, 16 Nov 2011 00:11:53 -0000
Subject: Appeal to Sheffield Cathedral & Occupy Sheffield

An appeal to those responsible for Sheffield Cathedral and to those at Occupy Sheffield.

This morning I listened to the Radio Sheffield interviews with Deacon Dave & Peter Bradley regarding “Occupy Sheffield”. Later I came to hear Billy Bragg and also spoke with some of those occupying outside the cathedral. I then attended Holy Communion in the cathedral.

I have long been proud of Sheffield Cathedral because of its excellent social outreach. But I also wish to support the Occupy movement, which I believe is taking up an important prophetic role in these dangerous times in which we live. – I am therefore disappointed to find that the cathedral and the occupiers are somewhat at odds with each other.

I realise, of course, that there are some legal and safety concerns that can’t simply be overlooked, but these must not be allowed to get in the way of matters that are much more fundamental and important. I therefore appeal to both the cathedral and the occupiers to lay aside all pettiness and all intransigence and to engage seriously together to explore how each can accommodate the other and to work together on those areas of common concern.

The Sheffield Diocesan Vision Statement invites us to seek to “transform our society and God’s world.” The prophets urge us to do justice as well as to show mercy; and to “let justice flow like a river, and righteousness like a never failing stream.” – These are matters of ultimate importance.

This comes with a promise of prayer for all concerned.

David Goss
Vicar of St Aidan’s, Wheatley Hills, Doncaster.

The following email was sent to Occupy Sheffield by Carl Hutton, General Manager of the Cathedral on Wed, 16 Nov 2011 14:30:40:

Dear Occupy Sheffield protestors

With reference to the email you sent to me on Monday, you stated that you would be in contact with the Cathedral regarding health and safety matters relating to the Billy Bragg performance on the Cathedral Forecourt/Churchyard before it took place, land which you are currently occupying without permission. Fortunately due to the low turnout at the event the health and safety matters that were a concern to the Cathedral in this instance were not realised, this however does not make your decision to not communicate with the Cathedral about your intended health and safety measures for the event, when you stated in an email that you would.

On a separate and related health and safety matter, in the Cathedral and Occupy Sheffield dialogue meeting held yesterday, concerns were expressed with regards the open structure that has been erected close to the accessible entrance to the Burrows Transept. The concerns relating to the lack of ballast, the structure being a tripping hazard and its location in relation to the main entrance with a funeral taking place on Monday the structure dominates the Forecourt / Churchyard and we would be keen for it to be relocated away from the two entrances if you insist on its continued use.

In the meeting the Cathedral was informed that the structure was ballasted with the sand bags and tethered to the bollards and street furniture. In having undertaken a site check this afternoon it is clear that the structure is ballasted through the use of no more than 6 sand bags which should the wind pick up would not be sufficient to stop a serious incident occurring. Please can you resolve the matter of where this structure is located how it is ballasted immediately as it is a potential danger to both campers and members of the public should the weather change and the wind pick up.

Finally it was stated by the Cathedral in the dialogue meeting that the Cathedral had with Occupy Sheffield protestors yesterday that the Cathedral had been informed that the Police were receiving a number of calls from Occupy Sheffield protestors from the Cathedral Forecourt / Churchyard with regards various incidents taking place on the camp, only for complaints then not to be formally lodged once the Police had attended the incident. This morning two members of the Cathedral staff reported that they witnessed a member of Occupy Sheffield in distress, alleging they had been assaulted by another member of your camp, only for the matter again not to be formally taken forward with the Police, despite the Police having attended on site. This approach of not wishing to have incidents recorded with the Police is putting every member of the Occupy Sheffield protest which is illegally occupying Cathedral land at significant risk as there are clearly chronic problems within your group with regards criminal activity.

We are obligated as the owners of the land, even though you are trespassing on it to draw these matters to your attention. It is the Cathedrals understanding that the male involved in the incident this morning was also involved in the altercation witnessed on Saturday evening that I previously brought to your attention. Our conclusion to this is that Occupy Sheffield despite stating that it is in control of the campsite and occupation are in fact not and you are putting protestors and members of the public at significant risk.

As with my previous correspondence please do not hesitate to circulate this message as you see appropriate.

Carl Hutton
General Manager

The Cathedral Church of St Peter and St Paul
Church Street
S1 1HA

W: www.sheffieldcathedral.org

Occupy Shefield sent the following reply in response:

Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 14:44:13 +0000
From: info@occupysheffield.org.uk
Subject: Re: Sheffield Cathedral – Issues of concern

Dear Carl,

We know that the OS representatives at the meeting on Tuesday were able to respond to your points about the Comms, Health & Safety and Police issues, namely that 1) it’s a tough job, and we apologize 2) they were being dealt with and 3) that matters between OS and the police are precisely that. To clarify, both police and city centre management were consulted re Billy Bragg and were happy it wasn’t a cause for concern. With regards your suggestion to move the dome, this will be discussed at our next camp meeting.

Occupy Sheffield has a code of conduct in which we are asking people to leave the immediate area of the camp (and are discouraging them from entering), if they are under the influence. The camp is dry. However, we have no means of enforcing the removal of people if they are violent, except in extreme cases where we can only call the police. We have taken what we believe to be the correct stance where itinerant Street-Drinkers who stay on the Cathedral forecourt are concerned (they have been doing so for many years), namely that they are welcome in the camp if they abide by the code of conduct. Sadly, they frequently have not.

We do have to manage challenging anti-social behaviour and occasional flare-ups. But it is a core belief that the movement should be inclusive, and moreover, in many cases these are the victims of the system we challenge – so it is painful for us to have to lay out for you so barely that in most cases it is these people who are causing trouble. The group is undertaking workshops to attempt to deal with the issues of safe exclusion.

It is a common phenomenon that has been observed in Occupy Movements around the world, that the pre-existing troubles of an area are brought into the spotlight – and frequently blamed on the Occupation itself. This situation seems to be no different, but we have set our sights on higher goals, and we will do our best not to be diverted.

Once again, we appeal for a change of heart on the part of the Cathedral; for you to acknowledge that fundamentally the prospectus for a just and fair society is one that we all share. We are working to establish a way of setting up a constructive dialogue process that will be acceptable to all involved and invite you to a constructive dialogue as to how the Cathedral and the Occupation can leave the narrative of conflict behind.

Occupy Sheffield