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.
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.