By Tim Hardy
(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!”
(Photo by Ellen.)