Thursday, March 31, 2011

Were UK Uncut activists victims of politically motivated policing?

An ugly picture seems to have emerged around the policing tactics used against UK Uncut activists who carried out non-violent direct action against Fortnum & Mason store on Piccadilly last Saturday.

Did police officers mislead or even lie to the protesters?

Did the police have a political motive in trying to paint an image of UK Uncut that would harm the latter's reputation and distract from their arguments about the harm caused by corporate tax avoidance?

TJN and and other organisations have penned a letter condemning what we see as politically motivated policing tactics apparently designed to intimidate and criminalise legitimate protest. The letter is in today's Guardian newspaper and is reproduced in full below.

The Guardian, Thursday 31st March 2011

Policing must not be politically motivated

As a relatively new protest movement UK Uncut have played a significant part in changing the terms of debate around economic policy in this country. Indeed they were instrumental in ensuring more people were at the march on Saturday than otherwise would have been. At all times they acted in a way which complemented and supported the TUC march.

However, in taking the type of peaceful action which they routinely undertake, on Saturday UK Uncut were treated in a political and deceptive manner by the police which sends an ominous message about the right to protest. It would appear activists were misled by the police about not being arrested when asked to leave the Fortnum & Mason building, after which they were held for a significant length of time, their clothing was confiscated, and they have been denied the right to protest in the near future.

We support the right to protest for a fairer and more equal world. As part of this, we condemn any politically motivated policing which provokes, intimidates or criminalises protesters. We will continue to support UK Uncut until tax justice is secured so the poorest are not forced to pay the price of a financial crisis caused by the richest.

John Hilary
War on Want,
Nick Dearden Jubilee Debt Campaign,
Liz Nelson Tax Justice Network,
Neal Lawson Compass,
Mark Serwotka PCS,
Jeremy Dear NUJ,
Len McCluskey Unite,
Andy Egan People and Planet

Postscript: since publishing this blog, our attention has been drawn to Andreas Whittam Smith's thoughtful article in today's Independent, in which he rightly draws attention to the harsh treatment meted out on non-violent protesters compared to the relatively lax policing of those engaged in more violent protest away from Fortnum & Mason: "intelligent policing that goes after the violent troublemakers, while finding a modus vivendi with peaceful if unconventional demonstrations, is required. This week's arrests of Uncut supporters may not have been wise in this respect. For at the same time only 11 people were charged for the more violent protests elsewhere in the capital, including serious disturbances in the West End during which police were pelted with ammonia-filled light bulbs."


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