This was first posted on Indymedia Scotland:
Denouncing tax dodging by big companies and opposing cuts in public services, people took action at Boots, Vodaphone and BHS shops in Edinburgh on Saturday 28 May. Imaginative street theatre saw tax avoiding bosses detained by the Big Society Revenue and Customs Inspectors. But police acted to defend the tax-dodging criminals against Edinburgh Uncut’s protests, arresting, detaining and charging two women.
After several hours of peaceful protest at three city centre shops, police suddenly grabbed two women at British Home Stores on Princes Street. One woman fell to the ground. Police twisted her arms behind her back and handcuffed her, causing her pain and distress. The prisoners were taken to St Leonards and people quickly descended on the police station in solidarity, numbers later swelling as around 40-50 people arrived from the Reclaim the Night march. The women were released after around 5 hours in custody. Both were charged with Breach of the Peace and the woman who was hurt by the police was also charged with “Resisting Arrest”.
CORPORATE CRIMINAL ARRESTED
Action had started earlier at Boots on North Bridge, where staff and customers alike were astonished as Boots boss Stefano Pessina paid an surprise visit to the store. However his boasts that he had avoided millions in tax by closing down Boots HQ in Nottingham, sacking all the workers, and replacing it by a PO box in Switzerland provoked outrage and angry shouts of “You’re a class enemy!” Big Society Revenue and Customs Inspectors quickly moved to detain the corporate criminal, handcuffing him and holding him behind crime scene tape. His pathetic pleas that he would shop his fellow swindlers in the boss class if shown leniency were ignored.
Meanwhile passers-by eagerly took leaflets explaining how giant companies were robbing the public of billions in tax while the Condem government falsely claimed their coffers were empty and ordinary people had to suffer cuts. Tax avoidance loopholes allow the rich to escape paying an estimated £100 billion every year. Only one third of UK companies paid tax in 2009!
Vodafone on Princes Street was the next target. The shop was effectively closed down as crime scene tape was held across the entrance by the ever-industrious Big Society Revenue and Customs Inspectors. Vodafone recently avoided £6 billion in tax with the connivance of the government.
As more police arrived, a circuitous route was needed to reach the next destination, British Home Stores. Police had made an arrest at the last protest here, and people were determined that repression of dissent would not succeed. A banner proclaiming PHILIP’S GREED revealed that BHS boss Philip Green had avoided all tax on a £1.2 billion bonus by making the payment to his wife, whose registered residence was in Monaco. The multi-billionaire, whose retail empire includes brands such as Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge and British Home Stores, has registered his massive Arcadia Group of companies in his wife’s name, in order to dodge tax.
An initial foray into BHS cafe saw shoppers and workers responding positively to the CUTS ARE NOT THE CURE! leaflets. After increasingly heavy handed police and security forced protestors outside, focus switched to the main Princes Street entrance.
While some protestors leafleted outside, others, including one bearing the Edinburgh Uncut flag, advanced into the BHS store. Police, security and managers blocked the way, and a lengthy Mexican stand-off ensued within the actual shop. More protestors entered the shop and started giving out leaflets to largely sympathetic shoppers, some of whom even turned round and refused to enter the shop when it was explained what was happening. “We’ve got sales targets to reach,” a manager lamented, futilely ordering the protestors to leave.
“WE WON’T BE INTIMIDATED”
Police behaviour took a turn for the worse after Inspector Dignant arrived to take charge. Demonstrators were ordered to leave the store, and as they were being forced out two women were suddenly grabbed and handcuffed, one woman being hurt by the police as described above, her hands handcuffed behind her back. Inspector Dignant refused to remove the handcuffs from this woman as she lay on the ground surrounded by police, despite protests from fellow protestors that she was being hurt. Large numbers of passers-by stopped to watch, some joining in the denunciation of the oppressive police behaviour.
The five hour picket of St Leonards police station which followed was reinforced by demonstrators from the Reclaim the Night march opposing violence against women. As chants to free the prisoners rang out, one demonstrator told Indymedia: “It’s important we came here, all these struggles are connected.”
One participant in the Edinburgh Uncut actions told Indymedia: “I think we must organise more actions like this, linking up with all the different anti cuts struggles. We have to show them we won’t be intimidated.”
Meanwhile Saturday saw UK Uncut actions all round Britain, including in Glasgow and Dundee, many focusing on the cuts in the NHS and banks’ profiteering. There were also arrests in Manchester, where police detained nine people.