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London cathedral dean resigns over Occupy protests

The dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London stepped down Monday following criticism of the church's handling of the anti-capitalist protests on its grounds.
Occupy Wall Street activists camp outside St. Paul's Cathedral in London on Friday.Leon Neal / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: staff and news service reports

The dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in London stepped down Monday following criticism of the church's handling of the anti-capitalist protests on its grounds.

In the U.S., meanwhile, college professors held an all-night "teach-in" for Occupy Wall Street activists in Seattle, while in Richmond, Va., police cleared out a downtown plaza, ordering out dozens of activists who had encamped there since Oct. 17 and arresting those who refused to leave.

In London, Graeme Knowles said he is stepping down as head of the Anglican church's main cathedral "with great sadness" to allow for new leadership.

Clergy have been divided over how to handle the scores of tents that are set up outside the iconic cathedral.

His resignation follows that last week of Giles Fraser, a senior St. Paul's Cathedral priest who had welcomed the demonstrators to camp outside the landmark. He said he resigned because he feared moves to evict the protesters could end in violence.

The protests earlier forced the cathedral to close for a week on health and safety grounds. It was the first time the 300-year-old church, which re-opened Friday, had closed since German planes bombed the city during World War II.

Demonstrators erected the tents outside the church on Oct. 15, during a thwarted attempt to stage a protest outside the nearby London Stock Exchange.

Britain's High Court will decide whether to allow authorities to forcibly clear the protest camp. Many expect the legal process to be lengthy and complex.

In Seattle, professors at Seattle Central Community College taught free lessons on topics like "The Art of the Protest Sign" and "Legislative Lobbying" as a way to support the activists, who over the weekend moved from a park downtown to the college's campus.

The college initially had said it would oppose the move, but later backed down as professors voiced support and decided to offer the overnight lessons.

In Richmond, officers began clearing the park around 1 a.m. and most of the protesters left when told to and around a dozen who stayed were arrested for trespassing, police spokesman Gene Lepley said.

The occupation had dozens of tents scattered around Kanawha Plaza in the city's financial district. The site also included a library, a volleyball net and a large blue tarp strung up on three magnolia trees.

One of the protesters, Ira Birch, said the park was surrounded by a "huge line of cops" and police cruisers with their blue lights flashing. An officer read ordinances that the protesters were violating and told people to gather up their possessions and leave. She described the scene as "pretty peaceful."

Birch gathered up her laptop, a modem and other belongings before she left but many left tents, sleeping bags and other possessions, she said. "I actually left a tent there," she said.

Mayor Dwight Jones visited the Occupy encampment last week and told the protesters he would have city officials meet with protest representatives to discuss the continued occupation of the grass-and-concrete park in front of the Federal Reserve Bank high-rise.

Lepley said he did not know who told police to clear the plaza.

Birch said the Occupy protest was surprised and disappointed by the city's actions.

"The mayor said they wanted to talk and we thought that was a positive sign," said Birch, a Virginia Commonwealth University student from Timberville. "I think everybody's pretty sad."

A spokesman for the mayor did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

Protesters have been arrested in cities including Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; Oakland, Calif.; Atlanta and Nashville, Tenn.