Next action: tax dodger picnic – 12th June, 2pm

Come and join us for a picnic at Princes Street (let’s hope it doesn’t rain). We’ll meet on Sunday, 12th June at 2pm next to the Wellington Statue (East end of Princes Street) and then move on to have a nice picnic at one (or several) of the tax dodgers on Princes Street.

This time, feel free to be conspicuous – bring banners, placards, and drums or other instruments. A picnic blanket and possibly some food could also be useful. And there’ll be “protest bingo” …

Also, don’t be put off by the arrests that happened at previous protests. If you are worried about getting arrested, then just don’t enter any stores and it’ll be fine. We will have legal observers and a legal support hotline.

facebook event

ukuncut.org.uk/actions/611

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Video – Edinburgh Uncut at Bhs – 28th May 2011

Video of Edinburgh Uncut’s protest at Bhs on May 28, during which two women were arrested and both charged with Breach of the Peace, one also with “Resisting Arrest”. Four days after the protest, another activist was arrested at his home and also charged with Breach of the Peace.

Breach of the Peace requires conduct severe enough to cause alarm to ordinary people and threaten serious disturbance to the community. It should be conduct that is genuinely alarming and disturbing, in its context, to any reasonable person. It is clear that something substantially greater than mere irritation is involved.

However, members of the public were not alarmed or distressed by our presence inside the store, as can be seen in the video:

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Why I marched on Saturday 28th: The account of a UK Uncut activist

Written by Maximilian C. This was first posted on Liberal Vigil:

“Excuse me sir, would you like to know why we’re here today?”

This was my mantra on Saturday the 28th as I took to the streets with the UK UnCut Edinbugh branch and other concerned citizens. Together we waged a war of information against corporate tax avoiders by peacefully protesting in/in front of stores such as Vodafone and BHS and organising some hilarious theatre inside Boots where Officers of Big Society Revenue and Customs arrested an activist, pretending to be the owner of Boots, for tax avoidance. As the ‘owner’ of Boots was quick to point out to the arresting officers: “I’ve done nothing wrong! Well, it may be wrong, but it isn’t illegal!”

The emphasis of the day was to raise public awareness of tax avoidance and the harm it causes not only to the country but to us all individually. This was done through banners, flyers and megaphones, but the most successful method by far was simply talking to people. We found that there is a huge amount of support, regardless of people’s own political beliefs, for our message that companies should pay what they owe in tax just like everyone else.

As indeed there should be.

The tax burden on companies has fallen year on year for the past decade, whilst the tax burden on individuals has risen.

We are literally paying for their tax avoidance.

Over the course of the day I spoke to a large number of people from many different backgrounds and with many different views on the cuts. I spoke to some of those directly facing the cuts – the disabled, nurses and even a doctor – who were quick to give us their support, as well they might knowing the true injustice of the ConDem cuts.

However, it was even more interesting to speak to those on the other side of the debate, specifically a chartered accountant who I suspect may have had the words “Atlas shrugged” tattooed over his heart. While we disagreed over the cuts the public sector is facing, even he could get behind our message of eliminating corporate tax avoidance that uses backhanded loopholes and tax havens to defraud the public. As he himself said: “If I believed ideologically that companies should pay less tax, that them doing so is good for the country as a whole, which I do, then the only proper way to make that happen is to bring it up in Parliament and have a proper debate. Lowering their effective tax rate through loopholes and tax havens is dishonest and subverts democracy.”

Ultimately, that is what is so powerful about UK UnCut’s message.  No matter what your political stripe, it’s easy to see that a system which allows some of our wealthiest citizens to dodge hundreds of millions of pounds in tax each year, through stealth tax breaks, whilst the rest of the country faces austerity cuts to fix our deficit is wrong.

And once you start questioning a single aspect of the cuts, it’s difficult to stop.

Sadly, a fun day of chatting to passers-by and and spreading the bad news was marred near the end by the arrest of two of my fellow protesters. Having had a significant police escort during the previous three hours of our protest (I personally had a two officer escort while walking down the street on the way to Vodafone) the police suddenly decided that they had had enough. Using what I would describe as a reasonable amount of force they began pushing several protesters, who had been stood just outside the front door of BHS for half an hour with a banner, out onto the pavement.

From where I was standing, and witness statements taken later on agree with me, one officer was clearly worked up and then pushed one of the female protesters to the ground and then jerked her arm up behind her back to handcuff her. This obviously caused her a lot of distress and pain and I vividly remember that she was led away in tears.

Given that our protest had been entirely peaceful and was clearly going to remain that way, I found this both unreasonably brutal and unnecessary, as did a number of passers-by. I hope P.C. A4636 feels remorse for his violent conduct, but I would like to stress that the police officers were highly professional during our protest, with two even giving me hugs, though I disagree with the grounds on which my fellow protesters were arrested and think that they have a case for wrongful arrest.

Afterwards followed a four hour long demonstration outside St. Leonard’s Police station (with varying amounts of attendees and energy) which eventually saw the release of our fellow UnCutters who were charged with breach of the peace.

Ultimately, the intimidation tactics being used by the police are simply not going to work. As we have seen, twice as many people turned up for our latest action after the police arrested Bright Green co-editor Alasdair Thompson at the protest before.

We will continue spreading the bad news and we will continue to do so through legal and peaceful means. Corporate tax avoidance is theft from those of us who don’t have special loopholes built into our tax code, or a house out in Monaco.

The number of people angry about it is growing.

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Police defend corporate criminals: arrests at Edinburgh Uncut action

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”.

Solidarity with the two women arrested: outside St Leonard's police station

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.

Boots boss Stefano Pessina in handcuffs after his detention by Big Society Revenues and Customs in the Boots North Bridge store

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.

GREEDY GREEN

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.

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More pictures (May 28)

Some more pictures of our protest last Saturday.

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The only justified arrest on Saturday …

For now, we have decided not to post any videos of the two arrests made outside Bhs last Saturday. This is just in case it actually goes to court and the videos are needed as evidence.

But we will post some more pictures soon as well as a video of the only justified arrest that was made on Saturday: Boots boss Stefano Pessina was apprehended by Big Society Revenue & Customs officers inside the Boots store at North Bridge and arrested for tax dodging.

Boots boss Stefano Pessina arrested for tax dodging.

Big Society Revenue & Customs inspectors secure the crime scene.

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Solidarity!

We’ll hopefully get a write-up of Saturday’s events posted soon and should also get some pictures/videos uploaded eventually. In the meantime, a big thank you to all the people who came to St. Leonard’s police station to show support for the two people who got arrested. Thanks for all the messages of solidarity as well, it was much appreciated.

Picture taken by Maximilian C.

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