On Saturday March 26th, 145 peaceful protesters were arrested for conducting a sit in at Fortnum and Mason in Picadilly. 138 have been charged, including 11 people from Birmingham. They are currently bailed to appear in court in London in May.
These charges – 94% of those brought after the day of demonstration against cuts – are politically motivated, according to UKUncut and came despite assurances from a senior police officer that the activists would not be arrested
Several unions and NGOs have written an open letter supporting UKUncut whose statement we agree with.
UKUncut have taken direct action against tax avoiding high street shops since October, and along with work by the Tax Justice Network and Tax Research UK have pushed tax avoidance right up the political agenda. Tax avodiance costs the UK treasury around £25bn/year – enough to remove around 1/4 of the planned cuts. This is almost entirely done by very wealth individuals and large multinational companies, who employ tax planners to devise convoluted schemes whose only purpose is to shift income and profits offshore to lower tax regimes.
Fortnum and Mason employs such a scheme to avoid paying around £10m of tax each year, which is why they were chosen by UKUncut for action on March 26th.
Birmingham Against the Cuts supports the activities of UKUncut, and would like to extend our solidarity to the 11 people who have been arrested from Birmingham, and the 127 others from around the UK.
We call for these politically motivated charges to be dropped, and argue that it is not in the public interest to spend the time and money taking 138 peaceful protesters to court.