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UK Uncut: Business as Usual

By Tim Hardy

UK Uncut under surveillance

(Photo by The No.)

Many of us went out again in London under the banner of UK Uncut on Sunday. We were met at our start point by dozens of police vans containing more officers per protester than were at the EDL march in Blackburn. FIT officers were on the scene openly filming everyone in an act of surveillance as intimidation.

With many UK Uncut protesters facing trial after the farcical arrests on 26 March, we were short of some familiar and much-loved faces but it was wonderful to see a number of brave new individuals joining us for the first time, many motivated by disgust at the shameful news coverage by the BBC of the previous weekend.

At our meeting point, Superintendent Jon Morgan came over to talk at length about what we may and may not do. He explained how he had been given carte blanche and unlimited resources to police our actions with as much force as he saw fit and how he wouldn’t hesitate to arrest all of us if we stepped out of line for a moment. There was a strongly veiled hint that we could be arrested if we so much as entered a store with an intention to protest and that if a store chose to close as a result of our actions then we might be held guilty of aggravated trespass because we had, by our presence, restricted their ability to carry out their business.

He was thoroughly decent about it. An intelligent, cultured man, he claimed to be broadly sympathetic and to see us as a nice bunch of people but openly admitted that there are very powerful people putting pressure on him to act. Nobody could deny, however nicely he phrased it, that our right to peaceful protest was being curtailed.

With so many new people, we ran out of Bust Cards to distribute but no one let the threat of further politicised arrests dissuade them.

Undaunted we set off to Oxford Circus to pay a visit to some of our old friends. Topshop, BHS, Vodafone, Boots: it was like a UK Uncut Greatest Hits Tour.

Dozens of speeches were made, thousands of leaflets distributed, hundreds of remarks and gestures of praise and solidarity received from passers-by. And the response from the press? Silence. Not a line of copy anywhere. No arrests, no broken windows – no story.

UK Uncut protesters have been watched and followed by undercover officers for months now. It must be perfectly obvious from their own intelligence that Sunday’s police presence was totally unnecessary and completely over the top.

The government keeps telling us we’re short of money so why is so much being wasted on unnecessary, political policing?

We individuals who take to the streets week after week to act under the banner of UK Uncut and take a stand against tax avoidance by rich corporations do so because we care about this country. Everything that is great about Britain, including the NHS and the welfare state which helped this country recover after the Second World War, is being destroyed by a small group of rich individuals who are using the consequences of the recklessness of their backers to launch an ideological assault on the most vulnerable in society. We will not be intimidated, neither by press smears nor by press silence, neither by political arrests nor by the condemnation of David Cameron in Parliament.

We take strength from the support of Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, who has signed a joint statement with the heads of NGOs and Trade Unions backing the right to protest. We take strength from the support of the MPs who refused to remove their names from an Early Day Motion praising UK Uncut when told to do so by the Prime Minister.

The police are being used by the state as a tool to clamp down on dissent but we will keep coming back. We are winning the argument and we will not give up.

Education, childcare, the NHS, pensions, Disability Living Allowance, the libraries, the EMA, rape crisis centres – all of these things, and many, many more, are too important to abandon in the face of rich thugs “making cuts that Margaret Thatcher could only have dreamt of.”

History will not forgive us if we stand idle while these vandals destroy all that is great about this country.

It’s business as usual for the rich tax avoiders and the friends of the Conservatives. It has to be business as usual for those willing to take a stand to stop them. You cannot stop an idea.

They say “Cut back!” We say, “Fight back!”

Cuts Don't Cure UK Uncut Protest

(Photo by Ellen.)

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12 thoughts on “UK Uncut: Business as Usual

  1. Great piece Tim! I had not realised just how many police there were attending Sunday’s demo. I certainly hope this won’t be an escalation in the way UKuncut (or similar) demonstrations are policed.

    Someone recently pointed out the aggravated trespass laws were tightened for use in policing animal rights activists and the police certainty don’t go easy on them.

    We must continue however, not escalating the issue as police have done, but as has been put so rightly – ‘business as usual’.

  2. Funny isn’t it, a peaceful protest and the media is nowhere to be seen. Sounds like the cops and the state are clamping down, think Matt Foot makes a very pertinent point when he says the UK Uncut arrests could be the start of the end re peaceful protests.

    Good to have got your report as couldn’t go yesterday instead I was in a discussion at a Labour Briefing meeting re March 26th and the arrests and we as a magazine and part of the labour movement send our solidarity to the arrested and also our support to the ongoing campaign of UK Uncut 🙂

  3. HLW says:

    Thankyou for this. As a UK Uncutter away from the capital, I am very interested to see our local force’s response to our next demo this weekend. I’m glad no one got arrested this time and also glad that at least the police were honest and informative, instead of underhand trickery. It is incredibly scary how the protestors in Fortnum and Mason’s were treated, as you say pure political policing. Someone posted the text of Neil Kinnocks famous speech to me recently and it is chilling in how relevant his warnings still are today. His section relevant to protesting is:

    “I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.

    I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient. ”

    So much for being strong on civil liberties, same old Nasty Party!

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  5. This political policing is so counter productive… I can see a lot of people thinking “as well to be hung for a sheep as a lamb” and rather than being put off protesting (as the gov. hopes), will get a lot more direct. Why do they think they can bully like this with no consequences?

  6. Jooee says:

    Where is the publicity regarding UK Uncut’s campaign in the media?
    When the Fortnum and Mason demonstration was high-jacked by the hooligans at the front, my family and friends were convinced UK Uncut were involved (as they were listening to and watching the TV reporting which said so).
    Only through Twitter did I realise what was going on and was able to put them right.
    Maybe the reluctance of the mainstream press to report on UK Uncut’s actions, goes a little further than not reporting a well-behaved protest? Maybe they have an unwillingness to keep positive stories about UK Uncut out of the press? It makes me wonder…

  7. As the media don’t want to publicise this we have to do it for them! So get tweeting, blogging, facebooking etc etc.

    The press is still as hidebound as it has been for too many years, the heirarchy still hidebound to the opinions and mores of its advertising revenue, owners and shareholders.

    Since 26th March so many people have ‘told’ me what happened in Regent Street courtesy of stories in the Daily Fail etc and really don’t want to know when I tell them I was there and so were many of my friends and I actually know the truth! They read it in the papers ‘so it must be true’.

  8. In Brighton we have always had hundreds of police turn up to our Uncut actions. I can’t remember any action where there hasn’t been at least double the number of police as protesters!

    But look on the bright side of this, having shit loads of police there makes people ask whats going on and when you explain to them that you are just sitting on a shop floor to protest against the cuts they are nearly always very supportive and amazed at the police reaction.

    Having loads of police around is one of the best forms of advertising for us!

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  11. skinacat says:

    Whilst I applaud UK Uncut`s tactic to draw attention to tax avoidance. It is fairly clear the media will not report your actions because they are businesses as well.
    Self-publicisng and `word of mouth` will help spread the message for those already attuned. What about those who are not ?

    Condemning other tactics which expose business for their arrogance of profiteering is counter productive. The defeat of those in power cannot be achieved by a single tactic. They will use anything to protect their power.

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