Around half a million people demonstrated in central London on 26th March against the ConDem government’s cut-backs. Thousands took direct action against corporate targets. A demonstrator told Indymedia Scotland: “We succeeded in our aim of taking over significant areas of central London. Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Circus and Trafalgar Square were all controlled by demonstrators for a good part of the day.”
The demonstrators were protesting against government austerity measures which force the bulk of the population to pay for the economic crisis which erupted out of the banking sector two years ago.
In addition to the official TUC march, many groups signalled their willingness to do more than march, with protest actions being called for by multiple groups. There were several other marches, including the Pink and Black bloc, the Education bloc and a 4,000 strong South London feeder march including the Radical Workers bloc and lots of local south London anti cuts groups banners.
“The actions against property were very targeted. I think just about every bank, Vodaphone, Topshop and McDonalds in central London must have had action taken against them. When we passsed the Ritz Hotel the glaziers were already at work!” a participant recounted.
People held sit-ins at companies which have been identified as tax-dodgers or in some way responsible for the economic crisis. The luxury goods shop Fortnum and Masons was occupied by many demonstrators to oppose the company’s tax-dodging activities, in an action initiated by UK Uncut. UK Uncut said:
“UK Uncut, the anti-cuts direct action group, are currently occupying Fortnum & Mason over the tax dodge of over 40 million by its owners Whittington Investments which have a 54% stake in Associated British Foods who produce Ryvita, Kingsmill and others and own Primark. ABF have dodged over £40 million in tax.
Over 500 activists congregated on Oxford Circus from the march and from Oxford Street where they had been transforming tax dodging retailers such as Vodafone, Boots and BHS where actors Sam and Timothy West performed and Soho Square where comedians Josie Long and Mark Thomas performed stand up comedy gigs.”
One demonstrator revealed an intriguing aspect of the day: “Although there were lots of cases of the usual police brutality, especially from the highly trained riot squads, a lot of the police seemed unwilling to use the usual level of force against us. Several police told us they agreed with the protest and wished they could go on strike themselves! One policeman said to me : “Instead of smashing windows, why don't you do like the French do, blockade a port, then keep coming back and do that every week until something changes?””
The BBC reports around 200 arrests, around 140 connected to the occupation of Fortnum and Masons. At least one person has been remanded until late April. Solidarity demos with the prisoners were being organised on Sunday 27 March and a defendants meeting is being organised for 2 April. For defendant support contact Legal Defence and Monitoring Group (www.ldmg.org.uk) and the Green & Black Cross (www.greenandblackcross.org). 07946 541511
These organisations advise those facing charges: “Above all - DON'T BE AFRAID! Many people support you and are willing to help, some of us have been in this position ourselves in the past. The police are not all-powerful, they can be challenged, and even getting charged does not mean you will be convicted. Defence campaigns in the past have helped people to win in court, and helped to win support for people facing charges.”