Despite setbacks, UKuncut are back on the streets


10:50 am - April 5th 2011

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contribution by Tim Hardy

Many of us went out again in London under the banner of UKuncut this Sunday. We were met at our start point by dozens of police vans containing more officers per protester than were at the EDL march in Blackburn.

FIT officers were on the scene openly filming everyone in an act of surveillance as intimidation.

With many UK Uncut protesters facing trial after the farcical arrests on 26 March, we were short of some familiar and much-loved faces but it was wonderful to see a number of brave new individuals joining us for the first time, many motivated by disgust at the shameful news coverage by the BBC of the previous weekend.

At our meeting point, Superintendent Jon Morgan came over to talk at length about what we may and may not do. He explained how he had been given carte blanche and unlimited resources to police our actions with as much force as he saw fit and how he wouldn’t hesitate to arrest all of us if we stepped out of line for a moment.

There was a strongly veiled hint that we could be arrested if we so much as entered a store with an intention to protest and that if a store chose to close as a result of our actions then we might be held guilty of aggravated trespass because we had, by our presence, restricted their ability to carry out their business.


(picture by The No. Full set here)

He was thoroughly decent about it. An intelligent, cultured man, he claimed to be broadly sympathetic and to see us as a nice bunch of people but openly admitted that there are very powerful people putting pressure on him to act. Nobody could deny, however nicely he phrased it, that our right to peaceful protest was being curtailed.

With so many new people, we ran out of Bust Cards to distribute but no one let the threat of further politicised arrests dissuade them. Undaunted we set off to Oxford Circus to pay a visit to some of our old friends. Topshop, BHS, Vodafone, Boots: it was like a UK Uncut Greatest Hits Tour.

Dozens of speeches were made, thousands of leaflets distributed, hundreds of remarks and gestures of praise and solidarity received from passers-by. And the response from the press? Silence. Not a line of copy anywhere. No arrests, no broken windows – no story.

The government keeps telling us we’re short of money so why is so much being wasted on unnecessary, political policing?

The police are being used by the state as a tool to clamp down on dissent but we will keep coming back. We are winning the argument and we will not give up.


A longer version of this report is here.

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Reader comments


There was a strongly veiled hint that we could be arrested if we so much as entered a store with an intention to protest and that if a store chose to close as a result of our actions then we might be held guilty of aggravated trespass because we had, by our presence, restricted their ability to carry out their business.

So… in other words you were told that if you broke the law then you would be arrested? Seems fair enough.

You have a right to protest of course.

Do you have a “right” to force a store to close?

No. Sorry.

Otherwise I’m glad it went well for you.

3. Chaise Guevara

It doesn’t sound like your right to peaceful protest is being curtailed. You don’t have a right to preacefully protest in an illegal fashion (obviously), and the police can’t curtail a right that you don’t have.

I agree with the principles behind the protests, and personally think it’s stupid and counterproductive for the police to take the line of being as heavy-handed as possible. Nevertheless, If you break the law in a way that doesn’t harm or endanger people or property to make your point, then I respect your bravery and dedication, but you are putting yourself at risk of arrest. And if you do end up in court, you can’t act as if your rights have been violated by the arresting officer or whoever decided to prosecute.

@1. Quite.

So if a couple of dozen people enter a shop (for whatever reason) what ‘law’ is actually being broken exactly? Apart from the unwritten law that the rich and powerful have an automatic right to make up any law they want on the spot and they can have the junta enforce it by as much force as he saw fit, of course, that goes without saying, but for the rest of us that are trying to convince yourselves that we do not live in a police state, why it is illegal for a shop to be busy?

My mother lives near a small shopping centre with a couple of shops in it. The local youths stand outside it and play footbal, drink smoke dope etc. They sometimes cause a bit of bother, including things like throwing eggs at houses. However, because my mother pays tax here and not offshore, the ‘police’ are ‘powerless’ to move these teenagers on or, god forbid, arrest them. Yet anyone standing outside a shop owned by millionaires and you get full protection from he State. The ‘State’ that you attempt to shield your vast fortunes from, lest they take a couple of quid in tax to pay for your protection with it. What a nice cosy arrengement that is. What ever happened to ‘self relience’, eh?

To the tax payers of London who were raped, stabbed, shot at, mugged or otherwise left to their fate by the filth on Sunday, rest assured your right to buy 3 for 2 vitimans, mobile phones and skinny jeans was being upheld by London’s finest.

I think that elected chief constables sound like a bad idea, but if we can have the copper who made this call head on a plate, then perhaps…

Peacefully occupying the premises of organisations which avoid large amounts of tax, and thereby disrupting their ability to do business, is (in my opinion as a liberal leftie) a Good Thing to Do.

Peacefully occupying the premises of organisations which (say) use taxpayers’ money to provide valuable public services, and thereby disrupting their ability to do business, would be (in my opinion as a liberal leftie) a Bad Thing to Do.

In my opinion as a liberal leftie, the law should not make any distinction between action taken by liberal lefties against organisations of which they disapprove and action taken by right-wing nutters against organisations of which they disapprove (assuming, of course, that the methods involved are the same).

Question: if the police had issued similar warnings to a group of protesters who were UKuncut’s mirror image – right-wing, small-state, anti-tax loons demanding deeper cuts to public spending – and who were planning similar occupations of (say) SureStart centres or libraries, would this strike us as inappropriate?

In other words: are we letting the fact that UKuncut are (in our eyes) the good guys sway our opinions as to what line the police should be taking?

So if a couple of dozen people enter a shop (for whatever reason) what ‘law’ is actually being broken exactly?

The reason does matter rather. If they’re all intent on shopping, then unsurprisingly no law at all is being broken. If they intend to cause disruption sufficient to prevent the store trading then they are guilty of trespass (because the right to enter private property is only ever conditional), aggravated trespass (because as well as being illegally on private property, they are causing the owner economic loss) and possibly burglary (if they entered private property illegally with the intent to commit a further crime, say criminal damage).

“f they’re all intent on shopping, then unsurprisingly no law at all is being broken. If they intend to cause disruption sufficient to prevent the store trading then they are guilty of trespass”

How would you prove intent beyond reasonable doubt though? Surely the officers would have to wait and see what they did?

Obstructing a shop’s business might be justifiable but which “right” is being curtailed? You all believe in property or this tax evasion thing would be beside the point.

OP,

Nobody could deny, however nicely he phrased it, that our right to peaceful protest was being curtailed. …

The government keeps telling us we’re short of money so why is so much being wasted on unnecessary, political policing?

You are not entitled to interfere with other people going about their lawful business on their property. I don’t understand people who don’t appear to understand this point. Are they being disingenuous? Is it rhetorical?

I said in another thread that I thought before last week that occupiers were seeing how far they could ‘push’ the law and/or were prepared to face charges. With all the expressions of shock and the complaints about charges of aggravated trespass, I’m beginning to think some occupiers were rather naive. Those thinking about ‘occupying’* property must be made aware that they potentially face arrests for and charges of aggravated trespass.

Planeshift,

How would you prove intent beyond reasonable doubt though? Surely the officers would have to wait and see what they did?

Normal policing procedure is to try and avert crimes being committed if possible – so if a bunch of UK Uncut protestors had all gone towards a shop, I suspect the police may be all over them in a minute. It’s not as if the management of the shop would be demanding they be allowed to stay is it? It’s legal as it maintains public order.

UK Uncut have probably used up their reserves of goodwill with the police (who as an organisation would prefer to spend less time on them and more on the destructive idiots) and businesses. Which means that there will be automatic moves to stop them doing what they have been doing before it starts. Actions have consequences, and these are the consequences of UK Uncut’s actions.

Planeshift,

How would you prove intent beyond reasonable doubt though?

UK Uncut has been using language such as “shut down”, “occupy”, “take over”. The UK Uncut spokesperson on Newsnight talked about actions where they “turn banks into libraries”. What does that mean to you, if not “disrupt” or “obstruct” the lawful activity taking place in those shops and banks that are UK Uncut’s targets?

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 5 Jim

Nobody’s going to take your assessment of policing policy seriously when you refer to cops as “the filth”.

The police are there to uphold the law for everybody, not just people you like. They don’t do it perfectly, but the fact that you can cite anecdotes of effective enforcement that protects rich people and ineffective enforcement to protect non-rich people does not demonstrate that the police only care about the wealthy.

Apart from anything else, protests like these are planned publically in advance. If some people rang up the police and said “we’re going to murder and rape a load of people at 2pm on Sunday, put this postcode into your GPS to find us”, you better believe there’d be arrests.

High-profile crimes by easily identified perpertrators are likely to lead to arrests. There’s no conspiracy there.

High-profile crimes by easily identified perpertrators are likely to lead to arrests. There’s no conspiracy there.

Well technically there is, but generally only a conspiracy to be seen stopping or solving crimes.

Any police decision is a conspiracy, as they get together to make it. This does not make it a bad thing – unless you are like Jim and automatically believe the worst of people…

15. Torquil Macneil

“An intelligent, cultured man, he claimed to be broadly sympathetic and to see us as a nice bunch of people but openly admitted that there are very powerful people putting pressure on him to act. ”

I don’t know about ‘cultured’, but he is evidently intelligent, knowing exactly what you wanted to hear and giving it to you.

Jim,

So if a couple of dozen people enter a shop (for whatever reason) what ‘law’ is actually being broken exactly? Apart from the unwritten law that the rich and powerful have an automatic right to make up any law they want on the spot and they can have the junta enforce it by as much force as he saw fit, of course, that goes without saying, but for the rest of us that are trying to convince yourselves that we do not live in a police state, why it is illegal for a shop to be busy?

This is, of course, disingenuous – unless Jim actually believes it, in which case I retract ‘disingenuous’ and say he’s a fool. (But a number of people are saying similar things.)

Words such as “occupy”, “shut down”, and “take over”, and videos available online, show that the protests are not merely about “entering” shops and banks.

17. Planeshift

@12, ok think of a practical question – how do police identify members of UK uncut and distinguish them from other members of the public, and at what point should they get arrested?

What If UKuncut – instead of meeting in the street for a demo, organised a flash mob style protest instead? When would the police be justified in arresting people?

18. Torquil Macneil

“Well technically there is, but generally only a conspiracy to be seen stopping or solving crimes.”

Surely ‘conspiracy’ has the meaning of ‘agreement for illicit purposes’? Everything else is just a plan.

In my view as a participant in UK Uncut (and it’s only a personal one), our purpose is never to disrupt the activity of a shop. Our aim is to engage in a friendly way with the customers and staff of these shops, along with the passing public, in order to communicate a message to them about the tax avoidance activities of shop’s owners. An even more important aim is to focus media attention on these issues. In both respects, we have been very effective: the public do not generally feel inconvenienced by our actions (with a few exceptions).

A side effect of our actions is that some shops choose to close their doors. I’d rather they didn’t, because I feel it makes for a less interesting and effective protest, but it’s their decision, not ours.

I’d say there’s little point in aiming for direct disruption of a shop’s ecenomic activity, because such losses are very minor, compared to the potential loss of reputation for a brand such as Vodafone or Boots, when we expose their tax-dodging antics.

Torquil,

Depends if you want the proper or legal usage. Breaking and entering is only wrong in a legal sense – it is also a useful way of getting into a car you own if you’ve locked the keys in.

Worth noting that Jim probably uses conspiracy not as an illegal act, but in the sense of people getting together to screw us over (which is not generally a crime).

Planeshift,

@12, ok think of a practical question – how do police identify members of UK uncut and distinguish them from other members of the public, and at what point should they get arrested?

ISTM that in some cases it would be rather difficult to distinguish people if UK Uncut occupiers suddenly stopped shouting and chanting and pretended to be browsing. But others – say, in fancy dress or waving placards – might be easier to pick out and look for on CCTV for evidence.

What If UKuncut – instead of meeting in the street for a demo, organised a flash mob style protest instead? When would the police be justified in arresting people?

I don’t understand this question, sorry – probably my fault. If people protest in public, IIUC they don’t meet the ‘trespass’ element of the offence. If they start disrupting or obstructing the lawful activity being conducted on private property, ISTM pretty clear the police will then be able to arrest people – clearly it is difficult to establish intent if someone has merely entered a shop and is wandering around it.

Chris,

If you are outside, doing that is all well and good.

If you are inside, what you describe is still presumably not to the taste of the shop’s owners (or indeed all their customers), and furthermore the presence of people who are neither buying(/using services) nor browsing, but merely disrupting others (however nicely you talk to me whilst I am looking for a new phone, it disrupts my search…) not only disrupts the way people shop but also requires staff time to watch the extra people, and perhaps counter their comments. It is also more likely to lead to friction and argument within the shop, and to be honest, a lot of shoppers will simply avoid anywhere where there is a protest.

That is kind of the key difference – UK Uncut were tolerated outside, but as they emphasise occupying space inside, they become seen as a menance by shops. Who pay their taxes (the entire UK Uncut thing admits that – just says not enough) and so are entitled to be protected from those who seek to disrupt them…

23. Torquil Macneil

Chris, the same law that protects you and your friends from policemen coming to your houses and offices uninvited to peacefully ‘browse’ among your possessions in a friendly way, protects others from you. I am surprised anyone struggles with this concept. This is what ‘rule of law’ boils down to.

24. Hodge Podge

@23 A person’s home is completely incomparable to a shop. The shop keepers aren’t going to feel violated because people sat on their floor.

Chris,

In my view as a participant in UK Uncut (and it’s only a personal one), our purpose is never to disrupt the activity of a shop. Our aim is to engage in a friendly way with the customers and staff of these shops, along with the passing public, in order to communicate a message to them about the tax avoidance activities of shop’s owners.

I don’t want the weight of criminal law to come down on you for that. But the UK Uncut website (for example) uses language such as take over, occupy, and shut down. And there are videos of UK Uncut actions that show disruption to businesses.

I’m inclined to agree with Chaise’s second paragraph @3. I’m a bit concerned that some people (I’m not referring to Chris Whitrow) appear surprised and shocked about the aggravated trespass charges. It suggests they weren’t informed this is a risk of occupations – I think it is a bit irresponsible of UK Uncut not to mention this risk on the website.

26. Torquil Macneil

Hodge Podge, you demonstrate the same sort of confusion about the idea of rule of law that UKUncut seem to suffer from. You may think that that law ought to be weighted in favour of nicer, or more sensitive people but that is not how it does work and, in fact, any attempt to make it work like that leads to abuse. Chris and his friends can only be protected from abuses by the state because the law applies to all equally and that is a principle worth defending even if rotten old businesses benefit from it at at the same time.

27. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 Hodge Podge

“A person’s home is completely incomparable to a shop. The shop keepers aren’t going to feel violated because people sat on their floor.”

Maybe they won’t, but that doesn’t mean that homes and shops are “completely incomparable”. It means that they don’t compare well on a single metric.

They compare well in other ways. For example, they’re both private property and in both cases the owners, within reason, have the right to tell you what you can and can’t do there. I think there’s a bit of thinking in general going on here that abbreviates as “I don’t care what people do to other people’s shops, because I don’t own a shop anyway”.

How do people feel about occupying a B&B? Is that a home or a business? ;p

29. Hodge Podge

No, you missed my point. If the UKUncut action doesn’t force the shop to close down (and usually the shops unnecessarily close down), then theres no damage done. @23 was bringing in an emotional element about people coming into your home and going through your stuff which doesn’t apply to shops and is a bit of a straw man imo. If people are in your home, it’s scary and might break harassment laws. UKUncut probably don’t.

I see they’re at it again as we speak.

http://lpuk.org/2011/04/uk-uncuts-magical-mystery-tour/

Of course they have the right to protest, but you have to wonder whether closing down businesses so they make less profit and therefore pay less tax is not rather counter productive?

I would like to extend congratulations for the bravery and commitment of the UKuncut people, as shown by this post. It’s good you are back.

However, there is an important point to make about what is known as “civil disobedience”.

Generally accepted as the breaking of relatively minor laws in order to make a political or social point, they are largely accepted in hindsight, but carrying the full weight of the applicable laws at the time.

Examples of the suffragettes, Rosa Parks and many, many others have shown both the effectiveness of this and the situation where the law is, actually, being broken.

Nick Clegg MP advocated civil disobedience against the National ID Cards.

However, from a policing perspective, the issue about whether a police officer agrees with the law is, to a large extent, irrelevant. The police have to uphold the law, as it is decreed by Parliament. Yes, they must also adhere to the law themselves, and there are instances where they have not.

But, the simple thing is, “rights” do not actually exist. They are, instead, a basic compassionate response to the plight of fellow humans and ourselves. They are right, in the sense that they should not be curtailed, but that doesn’t give us the “right” to trample on others’ “rights”.

Hodge Podge,

No, you missed my point. If the UKUncut action doesn’t force the shop to close down (and usually the shops unnecessarily close down), then theres no damage done.

One customer who leaves or does not come in because of UK Uncut activity is damage done unfortunately, so you can’t argue that. You can argue such damage is legitimate, but that is is a different case.

And shops do not just close down to spite UK Uncut. They close down because they judge there is a risk (to the brand, or to staff, or to profits, or whatever) and it is not worth staying open. As I remember, UK Uncut initially celebrated closing Vodafone shops.

Sad re the political policing, but not surprising I suppose.
Uncut have really hit a sore point with the tax issue, and its not information the government want people to know or understand.
Keep going. Most people in this country are decent people and want a fair more equal society.

@26:

Chris and his friends can only be protected from abuses by the state because the law applies to all equally and that is a principle worth defending even if rotten old businesses benefit from it at at the same time.

I agree, it is a very worthwhile principle to uphold. One cannot expect their private property to be thoroughly protected yet dispute the protection of other persons’ property.

There is a point, however, that increasingly the Government and the police are seeming to target political activists that do not belong to the status quo, whilst when there is a conflict of interest (such as in UKUncut and the climate change campaigners) the authorities seem to take sides, and take the side of the wealthiest.

35. Robin Levett

I see that Vodafone gets into the Greatest Hits Tour; it seems to be an article of faith amongst UKuncut supporters on this blog and elsewhere that Vodafone avoided UK tax. Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is UKuncut’s complaint about Vodafone?

As I understand it, the position arises from Vodafon’e takeover of Mannesmann at the turn of the century; the outcome of the deal was that Mannesmann was left with £35bn of debt owed to a Luxembourg subsidary. That debt generated interest payments that reduced tax paid in Germany on German profits; essentially the German profits were (it is argued artificially) transferred to Luxembourg, where they received more favourable tax treatment. The UK government sought to charge tax on the profits of the Luxembourg subsidiary under the Controlled Foreign Corporation rules; but backed down when it became clear that there could be difficulties in establishing that the CFC rules as written complied with EU law..

It is true that Vodafone could have structured the deal such that the interest payments were payable to a UK-based group member, which would have meant that the German subsidiary’s profits were (again the argument must be artificially) transferred to the UK; but they didn’t.

If there had been no tax planning (to use a neutral term), tax on those profits would have been paid in Germany; no UK tax would have been paid.

Forgive my ignorance, but is UKuncut truly arguing that Vodafone had a moral responsibility to avoid German tax by arranging for the interest payments to be made to the UK?

I know we’ve gone around this buoy at least once, but to no real resolution.

On the substance of the post; I have to wonder why a movement that openly boasts of having shut down shops – even, in a post on this blog, of having shut Vodafone down nationally – is surprised that the law takes a dim view of its threatening to repeat those activities. It is of concern that it chooses its targets on the basis of the kind of flawed analysis we have seen in relation to Vodafone.

Even though I’m sure they’re all ”nice” people, I have little sympathy for UKUncut.
If it wasn’t this it would be something else. There’s nothing wrong with being a bit of an activist – but I’m turned off by everything I’ve seen about these actions.
Outside the shop is fine – so why have to push it and get the police involved?

I know, the answer is that if they don’t, the protest gets as much publicity as your average saturday morning sale by the Socialist Workers in the high street.

But I would say, that’s kind of tough. And in looking for shortcuts to gaining a much bigger profile, UKuncut have suffered the blowback of being too in-yer-face.

They end up having more in common with the poor man blasting the street with his amplified message that ”Jesus is coming” as bemused shoppers just walk around him.

It’s all a bit preachy and smug is how it’s looked to me so far.

#32

Not sure I buy that.

Can you demonstrate that one customer who didn’t come in because UKUncut were in a store would have come in if UKUncut had been outside the store protesting? You also ignore another reason why stores may close down – because the manager panics and thinks the store needs to be closed when it doesn’t.

Aggravated trespass is a politically motivated law. It makes a criminal out of a civil violation. It’s perfectly reasonable to reject the law in principle while trying to work round it in practice.

Forgive my ignorance, but is UKuncut truly arguing that Vodafone had a moral responsibility to avoid German tax by arranging for the interest payments to be made to the UK?

Have to say, Robin, trying to intrduce facts into this debate is as futile as advocating vegetarianism to piranha fish.

Stop trying to spoil everyone’s fun, please.

There is a point, however, that increasingly the Government and the police are seeming to target political activists that do not belong to the status quo, whilst when there is a conflict of interest (such as in UKUncut and the climate change campaigners) the authorities seem to take sides, and take the side of the wealthiest.

Huh?

1. If one is content insufficiently dissatisfied with other people’s tax planning, why protest about their tax planning?

2. If one owns a coal power station, why protest about climate change?

The only way to disprove bias would be if, say, the owners of Drax occupied the homes of climate change protesters, or Vodafone shareholders occupied those of UK Uncut.

The police are supposed to prevent you from “occupying”, “shutting down” or “taking over” a shop (or bank, or power plant, or animal testing lab).

tim f,

Can you demonstrate that one customer who didn’t come in because UKUncut were in a store would have come in if UKUncut had been outside the store protesting?

Huh? How can one enter a store that has been “occupied”, “taken over”, or “shut down”, but nevertheless freely go about one’s lawful business (e.g. shopping or banking)?

You also ignore another reason why stores may close down – because the manager panics and thinks the store needs to be closed when it doesn’t.

ISTM his panic might mitigate the offence, but he would not have closed down absent protesters, therefore there has been disruption.

Aggravated trespass is a politically motivated law. It makes a criminal out of a civil violation. It’s perfectly reasonable to reject the law in principle while trying to work round it in practice.

In what way is it “politically motivated”? It may have been conceived in such terms but the law itself says nothing about politics. It merely says you are prohibited from interfering (to the extent of intimidation, disruption or obstruction) with the lawful activity being conducted on “land”. What exactly is wrong with this in principle? Why should I be free to interfere with your lawful activity?

#40

“Huh? How can one enter a store that has been “occupied”, “taken over”, or “shut down”, but nevertheless freely go about one’s lawful business (e.g. shopping or banking)?”

- this has happened in several cases during UKUncut actions – the protest hasn’t stopped or attempted to stop shopping going on. I think it even happened at F&M.

“ISTM his panic might mitigate the offence, but he would not have closed down absent protesters, therefore there has been disruption.”

- That doesn’t seem sufficient to me. If, for example, the manager panicked because a small group of people wearing all-black clothes entered the store (with the intention of purchasing some items from said boutique), and he feared the store was about to be subject to attack because he’d been reading the Evening Standard’s description of the black bloc, would the people who’d chosen to dress in black have caused the disruption and be liable to a charge of aggravated trespass? Surely the manager’s poor judgement has to be the manager’s own responsibility. Right-wingers are always talking about personal responsibility, well here’s an example.

“In what way is it “politically motivated”? It may have been conceived in such terms but the law itself says nothing about politics. It merely says you are prohibited from interfering (to the extent of intimidation, disruption or obstruction) with the lawful activity being conducted on “land”. What exactly is wrong with this in principle? Why should I be free to interfere with your lawful activity?”

- Yes, I meant conceived in such terms. And what is wrong with this is that it should not be a criminal law. As for whether you should be free to interfere with my lawful activity – that’s a philosophical question, but surely only a vulgar liberal would argue that you’re not free to interfere with my lawful activity in a whole host of ways.

@39. ukliberty :

The only way to disprove bias would be if, say, the owners of Drax occupied the homes of climate change protesters, or Vodafone shareholders occupied those of UK Uncut.

The police are supposed to prevent you from “occupying”, “shutting down” or “taking over” a shop (or bank, or power plant, or animal testing lab).

I am fully in agreement with you that the actions of the police are legitimate – in that a crime has, or is suspected of shortly being, committed. Yet I would also stand by my comment, in that the governments of recent years, including the New Labour one, have set about a criminalisation of activities that were once accepted as a nuisance, but only requiring <icivil redress.

In addition, the apparent militancy with which the police have pursued the use of these laws can well give rise to a bias.

You suggest that the occupation of someone’s private residence is equal to the nuisance caused by a business losing a few hours shopping/power producing time.

It is a time-honoured British view, albeit being eroded, that a person’s home is of far more importance.

Well done guys. Fantastic news. Big up yerselves

tim f,

That doesn’t seem sufficient to me. If, for example, the manager panicked because a small group of people wearing all-black clothes entered the store (with the intention of purchasing some items from said boutique), and he feared the store was about to be subject to attack because he’d been reading the Evening Standard’s description of the black bloc, would the people who’d chosen to dress in black have caused the disruption and be liable to a charge of aggravated trespass?

I thought we were discussing protesters, not shoppers. Shoppers are not trespassers. If there is neither trespass or intent to intimidate, disrupt or obstruct, how could shoppers be charged with aggravated trespass?

And what is wrong with this is that it should not be a criminal law.

How can you prevent me from interfering with your lawful activity absent police?

As for whether you should be free to interfere with my lawful activity – that’s a philosophical question, but surely only a vulgar liberal would argue that you’re not free to interfere with my lawful activity in a whole host of ways.

I would argue that I’m not free nor should be free to interfere with your lawful activities.

(That is a different matter from saying I wouldn’t interfere if sufficiently motivated. The point is that protesters should expect to be arrested if they break the law. And I am not entitled to freely interfere with your lawful activity no matter the degree of my disapproval of it.)

Mark,

You suggest that the occupation of someone’s private residence is equal to the nuisance caused by a business losing a few hours shopping/power producing time.

That was not my intent.

It is a time-honoured British view, albeit being eroded, that a person’s home is of far more importance.

Allow me to edit, then:

The only way to disprove bias would be if, say, the owners of Drax occupied the businesses of climate change protesters, or Vodafone shareholders occupied those of UK Uncut.

Okay, let me clear up a couple of points. There are plenty of businesses that suffer from criminal attacks in this Country. Everything from broken windows to threats of and actual violence. In some case it is a nightly occurrence.

Yet the police do not stand outside the most threatened and actively stop attacks. Phillip Green on the other hand has the full force of the law behind him.

There are plenty of things the police should and should not get involved in. Obviously it goes without saying that if the police are in the vicinity of people heaving bricks through windows then we can all agree (hopefully) that there is a clear reason to get involved. It is clear that criminal damage is taking place and the police have a duty to investigate such acts and intervene. But people standing in shops? As long as no damage, violence or theft is taking place, then what is the emergency? Why do we need to arrest, charge and huckle away people because they are standing in a shop in a passive manner?

Whatever we think of this action, it cannot be seen in the same light as, say a half brick being chucked through a window or even a bit of shoplifting.

Tim J @ 7

If they’re all intent on shopping, then unsurprisingly no law at all is being broken.

It is not the police’s job to determine if such a person is a legitimate shopper or not. The police are not a consumer interest group, nor are they the para-military wing of the chamber of commerce. The police’s job, at these types of events is to keep the peace. If the people ‘standing’ in a shop are not causing violence or damage, then what difference does it make?

Watchman @ 11

Normal policing procedure is to try and avert crimes being committed if possible – so if a bunch of UK Uncut protestors had all gone towards a shop,

Well ‘normal’ police procedure is to turn up hours (or days) later and attempt to collect evidence of a crime then proceed from there. The police actually do very little crime prevention as such.

In fact, if we were being a bit more sarky, we could say that the ‘normal’ police procedure in a crime where no actual violence or damage has occurred is to issue a crime number days after the event has occurred.

Chaise @ 13

The police are there to uphold the law for everybody, not just people you like. They don’t do it perfectly, but the fact that you can cite anecdotes of effective enforcement that protects rich people and ineffective enforcement to protect non-rich people does not demonstrate that the police only care about the wealthy.
I agree that the police are supposed to be there for ‘everybody’, that is the point. If my windows are broken, then the police will simply not turn up. If my mother’s life is made a misery by yobs the police will not turn up, yet this copper has been told, by the powers that be, that he can use whatever he wants to ensure that Phillip Green can continue to make a profit. The police are not acting ‘for everybody’ they are acting for a small elite and in their interests. The police are not there to take sides in disputes, they are supposed to be impartial. I say again, when one side of the dispute throws a brick, or takes out a weapon, then the police have a duty to respond, but it cannot be a crime to ‘enter a shop without intent’.

Watchman @ 22

Nothing you describe there is either violence or a criminal act. Nor does that justify an arrest. It cannot be criminal act to prevent you buying a phone, can it? Christ are those people who stand at the bar all night committing an offence, by not letting me buy a pint? Sure, it may make that shop a ‘bad’ shopping environment, but that is not a police matter, is it? If I go to my local and the place is festooned with skinheads/Goths/emos/whatever and I decide not to enter, then that is not a police matter, is it?

Are you likely to phone 999 and tell the coppersthat a guy stopped you buying a mobile phone by ‘being in a shop, but not buying anything’?

Stealth UKuncut next step. Everyone shops undercover as a difficult customer, ie pay in change/pennies, everyone visits customer service at same time. Film it undercover and make film and dialogue the demonstration.

Jim,

Yet the police do not stand outside the most threatened and actively stop attacks. Phillip Green on the other hand has the full force of the law behind him.

How odd, then, that people were not arrested for occupying Topshop.

Why do we need to arrest, charge and huckle away people because they are standing in a shop in a passive manner?

Standing in a shop in a passive manner?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DOnLZeul4Fg#t=1m20s
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffYlE0lLBbI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Esob5I8KOsY#t=1m40s

If the people ‘standing’ in a shop are not causing violence or damage, then what difference does it make?

The occupiers are accused of “disrupting” or “obstructing” the lawful activity in the shop! Are you really this thick?

Whatever we think of this action, it cannot be seen in the same light as, say a half brick being chucked through a window or even a bit of shoplifting.

It is not seen in the same light: hurling a brick through a window is criminal damage; shoplifting is theft.

Instead of using hyperbole and being disingenuous, why not argue about what is actually going on? We don’t need to invent things to argue about.

UKL @ 48

The occupiers are accused of “disrupting” or “obstructing” the lawful activity in the shop! Are you really this thick?

If the police have evidence of wrong doing, then present to a court at a later point.

Accused! UKL, merely accused! However you try and dress it up, ‘obstructing’ or ‘disruption’ the lawful activity in a shop is not the same thing as attacks. If the owner of the shop thinks these people are ‘disrupting’ his shop, then by all means call the police and if the police witness any arrestible offence then they can act within the law. However, that is NOT what we are talking about here. We are talking about Superintendent Jon Morgan being told he has an absolute mandate to take whatever actions he sees fit to ensure that Vodafone can carry on making money, including (it appears) to impose trumped up charges onto people in a shop. He told the protesters what they could and could not do, BEFORE any action was taken, which, to me at least, that his job was to ensure that the protester’s wings were clipped.

Just because some of these actions caused ‘disruption’ to the shop does NOT automatically mean that such actions are ‘illegal’. We might want them to be ‘illegal’ or we may believe that they are ‘illegal’ but the police do not have the gift of introducing laws onto the street, no matter what the Government of the Day want to believe.

Imagine a scenario were a fisherman and a ‘stone skimmer‘ are on the side of a lake. The fisherman has a permit to fish but the skimmer equally maintains that he has a right to throw stones into the lake. Clearly, the latter’s ‘lawful’ hobby is ‘disrupting’ the former’s ability to catch fish, but does that necessarily make it ‘illegal’? The police are called to the scene. It is not the police’s job to decide who is right and who is wrong, he is there to keep the peace. If the stone skimmer throws rocks at the fisherman, then he can be arrested, if the fisherman attempts to use a hook on the stone skimmer, he may find himself under arrest too. It is not in the police power to unilaterally decide that stone throwing is an illegal act and arrest the guy. It is currently not a crime to be a tosser (or thrower), of course the copper could collect evidence of the alleged ‘crime’ in the hope of prosecution, but it cannot be right for the copper to rule that because the area relies on revenue from fishing in the lake, it must therefore be ‘illegal’ to throw a stone, or paddle or let your dog swim in a lake.

Jim,

Accused! UKL, merely accused!

I was careful to use the word instead of declaring guilt. My point was that they were doing rather more than “standing in a passive manner” – I do not understand why you claim they were “standing in a passive manner”.

Perhaps you accidentally paused the videos or looked only at still images?However you try and dress it up, ‘obstructing’ or ‘disruption’ the lawful activity in a shop is not the same thing as attacks.Why use the word “attacks”? It is irrelevant to the charge.

[Morgan] told the protesters what they could and could not do, BEFORE any action was taken, which, to me at least, that his job was to ensure that the protester’s wings were clipped.

The OP claimed that,

There was a strongly veiled hint [from Morgan] that we could be arrested if we so much as entered a store with an intention to protest and that if a store chose to close as a result of our actions then we might be held guilty of aggravated trespass because we had, by our presence, restricted their ability to carry out their business.

That is what the law says – if that person disrupts the lawful activity in the shop he is committing aggravated trespass. Would you rather people were not warned about what the law says?

Just because some of these actions caused ‘disruption’ to the shop does NOT automatically mean that such actions are ‘illegal’.

Huh? The law says disruption is illegal. I have asked before, time and again: what is “occupation”, “shut down” or “take over” – words used by UK Uncut – if not disruption? Look at the videos I linked to – what is going on if not disruption or obstruction?

Fair enough to argue about the right or wrong in having such a law. Fair enough to argue about whether particular actions amount to something that merits up to three months in jail (and IMV these certainly do not). But very, very odd to argue about about what is plain to see: the wording of the law, creating the offence; the language used by UK Uncut, speaking to intent; the videos of “occupations” made available online, evidence of ‘disruption’ by any normal meaning of the word.

They should just do those protests like they do in the States where people holding placards walk around in a big circle, one after the other, On the footpath, but to keep moving I think was why they did it. No need for the aggro, just walk up and down with your signs and hand out leaflets. It’s not as exciting I know, and won’t get such publicty, but if you want to build something, do it slowly, and avoid attracting the attention of the police. No need for drama queens.

UKL @50

I understand your frustration; we come from opposite ends of the spectrum. You believe the big corporates have a right and duty to act in anyway they see fit and it is up to the various arms of the State to facilitate that.

I believe that the law is all its imperfect contradictions and its outrageous interoperations, is the law and everyone, Vodofone and the police included, need to follow the law. Neither Vodafone nor the police have the ability to make up the law on the spot.

I have watched these videos and certainly in the first one, I see nothing that requires the police to arrest anyone at the spot. The protesters are not putting people in harm, not the staff, not public and not themselves. There is no criminal damage being done either and to be honest, I cannot hear any abusive language either. It may constitute a ‘pain in the arse’ and it could result in a criminal prosecution once evidence is collected, but right now all I see, is a bunch of people ‘sitting down’ with signs in front of them.

I simply cannot see this as a police matter as long as no side gets violent. As I said, it is the police’s job to protect the public, not the share price of Vodafone. As ‘the public’ are not in danger, I cannot see what the police need do here.

On the other hand:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vRep8mZwBT8&feature=related

These people are acting illegally. These people are dressed EXACTLY like fox hunters. They are on horseback EXACTLY like foxhunters and own foxhounds EXACTLY like foxhunters. The meet up at the same time as foxhunters usually do and take their hounds out ‘for a walk’ in EXACTLY the same way that fox hunters do. They use the language that foxhunters do and they openly admit that ‘we’ will never take away ‘their’ sport.

And yet, according to the law, they are not ‘fox hunting’. It only becomes ‘fox hunting’ when they break the ‘law’. Even though they are clearly intending to break the law and clearly intend to carry this practice on, the police are NOT given ‘carte blanche’ to arrest these people, they are not given ‘unlimited resources’ to police this activity, nor do the pull these cunts of horses for ‘looking like they are breaking the law’ in the exact same manner that those corporate supporters advocate.

Funny that.

The people who own the law making and law enforcement procedures get to decide what constitutes law breaking. Of course the Tory thinks sitting in Vodafone’s shop constitutes ‘law breaking’ because he is owned by Vodafone, yet he cannot see anything wrong in acting exactly like a foxhunter would, because he is owned by the foxhunter too.

The police are supposed to be impartial, but it is clear that the police have been told to protect the interests of Vodafone.

Jim,

I understand your frustration; we come from opposite ends of the spectrum. You believe the big corporates have a right and duty to act in anyway they see fit and it is up to the various arms of the State to facilitate that.

This is a falsehood. Is it deliberate, i.e. a lie, or are you merely incompetent I wonder? I neither wrote this or implied it and ISTM this cannot be reasonably inferred from what I wrote.

Indeed I said in another thread that I hope the charges are dropped against the F&M protesters. And I said earlier in this thread that I did not want the weight of the criminal law to come down on protesters who do what Chris Whitrow described. To spell it out, ISTM such actions merit arrests and charges although I do not believe my disapproval of someone’s tax planning outweighs his freedom to run a shop.

I believe that the law is all its imperfect contradictions and its outrageous interoperations, is the law and everyone, Vodofone and the police included, need to follow the law. Neither Vodafone nor the police have the ability to make up the law on the spot.

They aren’t making up the law on the spot – I keep pointing you to the law and evidence of intent and disruption.

I simply cannot see this as a police matter as long as no side gets violent.

Nevertheless, it is a police matter, they exist to prevent crime and disorder, they exist to uphold the law.

Please put aside for the moment your hyperbole, your rhetoric and your wild imaginings about what I supposedly believe and answer this question:

In the videos I linked to, in your view are such actions ‘disruptive’ or ‘obstructive’ to the lawful activity in the shop?

I am not asking you about whether they merit arrests and charges – we agree that they don’t – I am not asking you about fishing or hunting, I am asking you about the meaning of the words ‘disrupt’ and ‘obstruct’ in relation to these specific actions.

aargh
edit

“To spell it out, ISTM such actions do not merit arrests and charges although I do not believe my disapproval of someone’s tax planning outweighs his freedom to run a shop.”

UKL @53

In the videos I linked to, in your view are such actions ‘disruptive’ or ‘obstructive’ to the lawful activity in the shop?

To be honest, I don’t really think it matters if they are ‘distruptive’ per se, I think the real issue is whether or not they are ‘illegally disruptive’. On that matter, meh I could go either way, subject to direction from a judge, but I have to say, that my instinct is that no crime is being comitted. Let the police hand the evidence over to the CPS and let them decide to prosecute.

I will say this, though, I can see nothing on these clips that I would expect the police to arrest anyone for, not even a breach of the peace.

However, given that I Iknow that the police have been given instructions to protect Vodafone’s profits at any and all costs, I would find it difficult to conclude that any such arrests where anything other than politically movitated.

The issue that’s clouding all this is why havent the police taken action before?

Well they have, with several Brighton protesters currently still on bail including Santa. But not all forces have and its not been consistant.

If anyone wants to apportion blame for police cracking down, then direct it to those engaging in ‘black bloc’ tactics for ruining it for everyone. Not that it was legal to occupy stores anyway, but police were probably less likely to act unless things got out of hand.

26th March changed police perception of uncut protests, and police will not prepare for the worst. That either black bloc tactics are to be used, or there is a likelihood protests could attract them. So they’ll play it safe and stop protests from happening unless pre-approved.

Bit like the BBC & other broadcasters tightening security after Liverpool at the weekend.

Jim

However, given that I Iknow that the police have been given instructions to protect Vodafone’s profits at any and all costs, I would find it difficult to conclude that any such arrests where anything other than politically movitated.

You ‘know’ it? You have a leaked memo or email, say?

UKL @ 57

I have read the OP, plus I know the history of the ruling elite when one of their own requires State aid. Nothing is too much bother for them, including supplying a local enforcement agency to ‘sort things out for them’.

Let us say that during this protest one of the staff members punched a member of UKuncat, then what? The junta were there, not to keep the peace, but to protect Vodafone. Are we sure that the police would act in an impartial manner? No, of course we are not. That is because we now know that the commanding officer had been given specific orders, unlimited resources and a mandate to take ‘any means necessary’ to protect Vodafone’s share price. Had the copper arrested a couple of Vodafone staff at the demo, the shop would have had to close and Jon Morgan’s job and pension would have been on the line.

We all know what happens to London’s policemen who step out of line with the Tory Mayor, don’t we?

Jim,

Let us say that during this protest one of the staff members punched a member of UKuncat, then what?

Prima facie common assault.

Bit weird to draw conclusions from imagining something that didn’t happen.

Jim,

We all know what happens to London’s policemen who step out of line with the Tory Mayor, don’t we?

Hmm, do you miss Sir Ian Blair, then? The guy who, contrary to law, asserted that the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes must not be referred to the IPCC, sought a £25k performance bonus on the back of the shooting (while cuts were occurring around him), defied a no-confidence motion from the London Assembly, lobbied the Government for 90 days detention without charge, claimed Islamic terrorism “is a far graver threat in terms of civilians than either the Cold War or the Second World War”, and secretly taped his phone conversations with the Attorney-General?

You believe the chief police officers have a right and duty to act in anyway they see fit do you? (huh, it’s quite easy being you.)

ukcuts,

The issue that’s clouding all this is why havent the police taken action before?

Well they have, with several Brighton protesters currently still on bail including Santa. But not all forces have and its not been consistant.

There have been arrests before – and not just in this year.

Arrests appear inconsistent possibly because circumstances are inconsistent; the disruption is different, the proprietors want it deal with differently, the officers at the scene take a different view from officers at another scene… I doubt anything else can be reasonably inferred from it.

@61

Quite agree. Too many variables. Just threw that flippant comment in as some seem shocked protesters were arrested at Fortnums.

@58

Jim I assume this assault was reported.to the.police? Or did it come from the same.source as the infamously untrue sky brick tweets.

UKL @ 59

Of course, it would be common assault, but only if the police treated it as such. Given that we know that the police where there to protect Vodafone, can we assume that the police would report what actually happened or what the establishment would rather wish had happened?

UKL @ 60

No matter what Sir Ian Blair said or did during his time in office, Johnston had him removed on gaining power. The hiring and firing of top police ranks is now a political matter. The police are no longer ‘independent’ of the political process and are now political lackeys to be bought and paid for. They police not ‘with consent’ and are no longer there to police for ‘Londoners’, per se, they are now there to police for Londoners who support the Mayor of the Day (whoever that is).

Jim,

Given that we know that the police where there to protect Vodafone,

No, that’s your imagination.

… can we assume that the police would report what actually happened or what the establishment would rather wish had happened?

Is this punch in your imagination or did it actually happen? If it’s your imagination, take a step back, a deep breath, and look at yourself basing a conclusion about the police on something that happened in your imagination. If it did actually happen, post a link and let’s see what the outcome was.

UKL @ 60

The superintendent in charge of Sunday’s demonstration said that he had been given the green light and unlimited resource to act in any way he saw fit to protect Vodafone. That is not in my imagination, nor is recent history surrounding police tactics in earlier demos.

Given that the police have been given ‘permission’ to act in an overtly partial manner in this regard, I don’t think it is stretching the imagination to hypothesise that a punch might be thrown at such an event. If so, I cannot see that it is wrong to speculate on how the police might react to a punch may be thrown from the side of the dispute that they are there to defend. Is that unreasonable? For me, I think joining the dots is quite easy.

1) The police are given instructions to defend one side of the dispute.
2) The dispute may have an outcome that may be judged to have a politically damaging end
3) The current administration have ‘previous’ with regard to leaning on ‘politically unpopular’ police chiefs, to the point that they have taken one major scalp.

Is it too far fetched to suggest that IF the event had went in the ‘wrong’ direction that the police actions will come under scrutiny, and IF the police are ‘persevered’ (rightly or wrongly) to be one side of the dispute?

Are you really suggesting that you find such speculation to be beyond your understanding?


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    RT @PoliceStateUK: Despite setbacks, #UKuncut are back on the streets http://s.coop/11kr – strong police response to peaceful #protest

  65. christine ohagan

    RT @libcon: Despite setbacks, UKuncut are back on the streets http://bit.ly/gSxE2a

  66. chang mei wan

    RT @PoliceStateUK: Despite setbacks, #UKuncut are back on the streets http://s.coop/11kr – strong police response to peaceful #protest

  67. milli tant

    Why the media silence? The uber heavy policing? #ukuncutRT @libcon: Despite setbacks, UKuncut are back on the streets http://t.co/FHLQIpr





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