Violent demonstrators: "We are not UK Uncut"
There have been many stories in the press over the past 24 hours suggesting some sort of link between the excellent UK Uncut and the violent actions in London on Saturday 26th March. Here is our take on what we saw during the course of that afternoon, which we attended.
TJN took part in the TUC march, which was a great success. The top photograph conveys a sense of the glorious carnival of colour, music and general good-naturedness of this major event.
In mid-afternoon (14h00) we went to Oxford Street to witness events in and around that street. We saw several stores closed down by UK Uncut activists, or which had simply closed in anticipation of UK Uncut actions. All peaceful and good-humoured. This picture we took outside Dorothy Perkins reflects what we witnessed, which, BTW, is consistent with the article filed by The Independent newspaper about what they saw at Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly:
"While groups such as Black Bloc were smashing windows on Oxford Street, UK Uncut members were reading books in groups on the floor and tucking into home-made sandwiches."
However, when we reached TopShop at Oxford Circus a quite different atmosphere was evident. The store front had been damaged and many police has been splattered with paint. Nothing too bad, but not consistent with what was happening elsewhere under the UK Uncut banner.
A large crowd had gathered at the Circus itself, and although the atmosphere at that stage (15h30) was largely peaceful and good humoured, we did see one group who appeared to be marshalling the crowd to some kind of rampage. We asked them what their plans were and whether they were associated with UK Uncut, and one of their number, who seemed to be taking charge of their actions, replied quite simply "We are not UK Uncut."
It was clear, to us at least, that infiltrators were piggy-backing off peaceful events organised by UK Uncut, and were intent on very different kinds of actions. Worse, after speaking with this character below (dressed as the hero of the dystopian thriller film V for Vendetta), who told us direct that "tax is theft" and he supported Philip Green's tax avoidance, at least some of the people present at Oxford Circus were radically opposed to UK Uncut, instead pushing a libertarian position from the right: anti-tax, anti-state, and supportive of tax cheats. While clearly in a minority, we were left with a strong impression that attempts were being made to provoke people in the crowd.
The situation was clearly very messy and deteriorating, so we left.
P.S. Verso have published this interesting blog by Dan Hind, author of The Return of The Public. Police acting as agent provocateurs? In Britain? Surely not! Sadly we have witnessed exactly this type of thing at other events - including the UK Uncut events at TopShop on Oxford Street on 18th December 2010 - so we find Dan's blog plausible. Do watch the BBC footage he links up to.