UK Uncut Demonstration on Oxford Street

At 11am on Saturday 4 December, dozens of eager protesters piled into Topshop on Oxford St. There was a strong UCLOccupation contingent. We were joining UKuncut who are calling on corporate tax dodgers to pay their taxes and save our public services. After a successful protest at Vodafone a few weeks ago, today the target was Phillip Green, head of the Arcadia group of high street shops.

We began by sitting in Topshop. The police and security were rattled. They forcibly removed a few individuals. It was chaotic and frightening; but when they realised the size of the protest and the commitment of the participants, they gave up. We sat and chanted for about 30minutes, before we were informed that the police were planning on forcibly removing all of us unless we chose to leave peacefully. We decided to leave but were met with a huge protest at the front doors. There were around 200 protesters.

UK Uncut Demonstration 04/12/10

Topshop was shut down. We decided to try and shut down Phillip Green’s other shops on Oxford St. We went to BHS and Dorothy Perkins; both of which were shut before we could get there. We also went to Boots and Vodafone to highlight their tax avoidance. After shutting down half of Oxford St, we went back to Topshop and sat down to block the two main entrances. The police allowed one of the sit-ins to carry on peacefully. However, they removed protesters from the other entrance, including some UCL Occupation students. The police were aggressive and confrontational. They cleared a path to remove students, and when I stepped in to take a photo a policeman told me to move. When I continued to take photos he pushed me in the stomach and said, ‘I’ve asked you, now I’m pushing you.’ Eventually, the police gathered behind the protesters for one mighty surge, pushing them from the entrance and securing a path for the shoppers to enter.

Despite the police efforts to move us, the peaceful sit-in continued. The police prefer to protect consumers over citizens exercising their democratic right to protest, and who are trying to reclaim taxes that will save our education and their jobs. Until the tax dodgers pay up, the UKuncut protests will continue, and UCL Occupation students will be there.

UK Uncut Demonstration 04/12/10

UK Uncut Demonstration 04/12/10

UK Uncut Demonstration 04/12/10

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19 Responses to UK Uncut Demonstration on Oxford Street

  1. pissed off says:

    amazing work

  2. Ehsan says:

    Great work guys.

  3. Topshop says:

    Strange that in the photo album on Flickr some of the protesters are wearing clothes from Topshop!! Maybe they should protest against themselves for conspiracy to Topshop’s crimes? And I really don’t say this to troll, I do recognise the clothes on two of the people as being from Topshop.

    But anyhow, the “consumers” are also citizens, probably normal citizens just wanting to get on with their Christmas shopping. Why do you have a right to stop them from this? Are you rights greater than theirs? Are they not equally as much citizens? Use your right to protest, but don’t disrupt other innocent people’s right to go about their everyday business in doing it. I support the Occupation’s demands, but this kind of thing is getting you of track and is going to cause mass support to dissolve. The beauty of this occupation has been the cross-section of people it’s involved. It hasn’t been simply a hard left ‘thing’. Don’t let that change.

  4. Man in the corner says:

    What a pathetic protest. How is stopping people voluntarily exchanging money for topshop products connected with the goal of the occupation. If Sir Philip Green hadn’t paid his tax bill he would be the one being arrested, not you. If you want the tax code changed, talk to the government again, don’t harrass individuals or companies acting in the best interests of their customers (keeping prices low).

    • Ehsan says:

      Is this a joke? It seems that you think you will get arrested for not paying your taxes, which, going by the annual amount that is not paid, a completely misinformed and uneducated assumption.

  5. Unimpressed says:

    I’m glad you can describe the previous protests against Vodafone as ‘successful’. I presume that means they have paid their £6bn tax bill. What’s that? It didn’t make any difference? Well who would have guessed.

    Man in the corner is spot on, decisions on taxation are made by Central Government. How could anyone possibly think that 100 students sitting on a shop floor will make these companies voluntarily pay more tax? Ridiculous.

    • Ehsan says:

      While decisions about where to shop is made by individual shoppers. Nothing wrong with giving them more information about who they are shopping from.

  6. Waste of Time says:

    Totally agree with Man in the Corner. It is a waste of time. The more and more of these pathetic little protests you stage, the bigger the feelings of those who do not support or who were sitting on the fence with regards to the occupation and it’s tactics. I can draw more and more parallels with the occupation protests to stroppy adolescent teenagers not getting their way.

  7. Ehsan says:

    3 people have posted against this action but they have failed to provide any reason as to why giving shoppers information about Topshop practices is a bad thing. Pathetic.

  8. Little voice says:

    The police are only doing their job. They probably have kids they’d like to go to university some day. Stop giving them a hard time! Their job is to prevent civil unrest and that’s what they’re trying to do.

  9. Unimpressed says:

    Ehsan wrote:
    3 people have posted against this action but they have failed to provide any reason as to why giving shoppers information about Topshop practices is a bad thing. Pathetic.

    Now I am confused as to the aims of your protest. I thought it was to make high earning individuals and corporations (re)pay their taxes. Now it seems you are aiming to provide information to shoppers?

    If it is the former, then please realise its the tax system which is at fault, with its loopholes etc. that businesses use to evade their tax. How many protests outside HMRC have you organised? I expect you would get a much larger turnout (I would certainly attend).

    And if your aim is to give out information, you could have handed out flyers all day outside every Arcadia Group shop in London without being moved on, thus getting the facts across to many more people. Yes you generated publicity with your sixth-form-common-room stunt, but was it the right kind? How many people have been put off your cause? How many people have no idea what you were doing there?

    Its concerning that poorly planned actions with no long-term vision could be doing serious harm to the anti-Tory agenda movement in this country.

    • Ehsan says:

      Getting people like Green pay their taxes does not necessarily only depend on HMRC doing their job, which they should do. Informing the shoppers about his practises can also affect his income if people decide to turn away from his shops. That is were information comes into it.

      Tactics are open to debate but in a decentralised movement you have to accept that individual groups have a given autonomy to act according to their analysis of the situation. They can do what these guys did , do what you suggest or any other way they see fit.

      • Unimpressed says:

        Unfortunately it entirely rests on HMRC doing its job.
        It is simple cost-benefit analysis: if the loss of income to Vodafone / Topshop through boycotts is less than the (avoided) tax bill, it is more efficient to lose the income than pay the tax (assuming a small difference to pay for PR, take journos out to lunch etc). If you can boycott Vodafone to the extent that its revenue losses approach £6bn annually then it is the right tactic. Otherwise….

        Good luck with your campaign, in whatever form it may take.

  10. Pingback: Why we care about tax avoidance | UCL Occupation

  11. For all those asking why we’re taking part in the campaign against tax avoidance, here’s why:

    For all those saying it achieves nothing, read:

  12. J K says:

    The protests which have recently been staged, specifically the two recent ones at Topshop have not only been conducted peacefully and legally but have also quickly and effectively drawn public attention to the serious issue of extortionate corporate tax evasion. Most of Topshop’s customers are hard working tax payers themselves, who would be horrified at the size of Philip Green’s unpaid tax bills, which, were they paid could make a significant dent in the financial deficit that hard working, tax payers, students, and students who are also hard working tax payers are being billed for. These people are not “stroppy adolescent teenagers” as suggested above, many of them already have so much difficulty making ends meet that they work half the week and study the other half (on full time courses).
    In reply to the suggestion that flyers be handed out “all day outside every Arcadia Group shop in London”, doing this would not seize the attention of the general public. Most people either refuse or instantly discard flyers.

    What has been done here and what is being done on a larger scale throughout the country has already significantly raised awareness about the unethical conduct of the richest and most powerful- those who have the greatest social and ethical responsibilities. It seems that they have neglected those responsibilities on such an immense scale that most people, like one of the above commenters would rather bury their heads in the sand than address the uncomfortable truth “If Sir Philip Green hadn’t paid his tax bill he would be the one being arrested, not you.”
    People in the U.K are fined and imprisoned for non payment of TV licences, and substantial amounts of money fund the pursuit of tax evaders. Why not apply the same stringency to grand scale perpetrators of exactly the same offence?

    As Eddie Izzard said; “Pol Pot killed 1.7 million people. We can’t even deal with that. I think, you know, we think if – if somebody kills someone, that’s murder, you go to prison. You kill 10 people, you go to Texas, they hit you with a brick, that’s what they do. Twenty people, you go to a hospital, they look through a small window at you forever. And over that, we can’t deal with it, you know? Someone’s killed 100,000 people. We’re almost going, “Oh well done! You killed 100,000 people? Ahhh. You must get up very early in the morning.”

  13. Little voice says:

    I hope all of you realise that retail such a Arcadia group, as well as the much hated investment bankers and financial services are now the backbone of British industry? We have nothing else! All of our industry and manufacturing such as steel, ship building etc. has been moved abroad; look up the recent example of the closure of a Twinings tea factory. In order to keep the industries such as retail and banking in Britain, providing jobs AND income by taxing the bankers big bonuses, the government are obviously inclined to provide some sort of ‘bonus’ for encouraging industry in Britain.

    By all means, continue your “anti-Tory” rampages as much as you like but maybe think about how you’ll feel when Britain is the Socialist ‘Utopia’ you think is perfectly possible. Especially when as UCL graduates, you will presumably have successful careers, with long and stressful hours but high pay. Think about how much of your wage you may want to give away then, especially when some universities in the country are offering ‘degrees’ to people getting all C’s and below at A-Level. Do you want to pay for them to get their BA Special Effects or whatever? I certainly do not.

    Unfortunately, that’s capitalism, and I for one am more than happy to work hard (as I have done so far by getting to UCL) and just get on with making the most out of it.

  14. A louder voice says:

    I guess the same protesters will be protesting about having their hard-earned money taken away from them when they get a job. You can’t get something for nothing.

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