Photos available on request. For Immediate Release
UK UNCUT WELCOMES SUPPORT AGAINST POLITICAL POLICING
Unions and campaign groups join in support of UK Uncut and criticism of political policing
A statement of support for UK Uncut and a condemnation of political policing and wrongful arrests of 138 peaceful protesters on March 26 has been signed by unions Unite, GMB, NUJ and PCS as well as several campaign organisations.
The statement shows continued unity in the anti-cuts movement, as ordinary people continue to actively oppose the cuts, from the trade union/labour movement marching in solidarity, to people engaging in civil disobedience on the high street.
The statement comes after new video evidence has exposed inaccuracies in press accounts of Saturday’s protests, and has shown police lying directly to protesters.
Video evidence of Saturday’s UK Uncut protest at Fortnum & Mason’s shows a senior police officer assuring protesters that they would not be detained upon leaving the store, and describing the sit-in inside the store as “non-violent and sensible”. Other footage from inside further documents the peaceful nature of the protest.
Daniel Garvin, 26, a protester who had been in the occupation from the very beginning said:
“There was a fittingly picnic atmosphere inside the store. Things were so calm that customers continued to finish their dinner and drink tea in the restaurant”.
The officer can be heard telling people that they had been delayed in leaving the shop due to pockets of disorder outside on Piccadilly. Later she informs protesters that they can leave, and should turn left and make their way away from Piccadilly Circus; she assures them that no one will be stopped once outside.
However, on leaving the store, all 145 remaining protesters were not only stopped, but arrested and taken to police stations across London. 138 of the protesters have been charged with Aggravated Trespass. All criminal damage charges were immediately dropped.
The joint statement echoes UK Uncut’s concerns that the charges made of 138 protesters for staging a sit-in represent an approach to the policing of demonstrations which is inconsistent with the police’s stated aims and which may be politically motivated.
Katharine Johnson, 32, who was inside the store said :
“It is outrageous that 145 people were arrested for sitting on the floor of a shop, doing little else than singing and eating snacks. The police seem to be trying to deter legitimate protest, which can only be described as political policing”.
UK Uncut is also concerned by the treatment of those in custody, some of whom were detained until late Sunday evening. Possessions were confiscated and many were released from police stations without their clothes, telephones, and in some cases with no money. Those detained included a 15 year-old who has since written about her traumatic experience.
Since October, UK Uncut has staged creative, theatrical occupations of tax dodging companies and banks to highlight alternatives to brutal public sector cuts. Inside Fortnum and Mason’s protesters sang songs, read books and played cards, while customers continued to browse the shelves and drink tea in the cafe. Like previous UK Uncut actions, it was entirely non-violent.
The action was in protest against the tax dodge of Fortnum and Masons’ owner, Wittington Investments. Wittington Investments have dodged £10 million in taxes annually through their ownership of Associated British Foods; enough to pay for 500 NHS nurses every year. Such behaviour from large companies highlights perfectly the dishonesty of politicians who claim ‘we’re all in this together’.
Notes to editor
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The full statement of support can be found at:
The video of the senior police officer’s comments can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum?INTCMP=SRCH
The video of the protest from inside the store can be found here:
The full story on Wittington Investment’s tax dodge can be found here:
A statement by one of the detainees regarding treatment upon arrest can be found here: